ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Talkeetna is mourning the loss of a pilot and four passengers who are all presumed to have perished in a plane crash in Denali National Park.
Air travel is one of Talkeetna's biggest attractions, as it draws in thousands of tourists flying in and out of the town. Many who take to the air will return safely but that wasn't the case for K2 pilot Craig Layson and four Polish flight-seers, when their plane crashed into a mountain on the Alaska Range.
"There is always an inherent risk when you're flying around a mountain that makes its own weather and that weather can change really fast," said David Lee of Sheldon Air Service.
While Layson may have worked for a competing air service, together as pilots, Lee says they were colleagues and when a deadly incident happens to one, it impacts all.
"You know you don’t wish this on anybody even though sometimes it’s competitive around here it does affect the whole industry, really the whole state of Alaska," said Lee.
Inside the Talkeetna Roadhouse, one of a handful of iconic businesses that tourists fill during these popular summer months, Trish Costello greets and serves guests with a smile on her face. While she's smiling externally, internally she's still mourning the loss of a fellow colleague in the tourist town she calls home.
As someone in a service industry, Costello says it’s difficult to deal with a loss like this because she still has to cater to the needs of every visitor while trying to process the impact this crash has had on her beloved community.
"They don’t really know what’s going on and they don’t realize that our staff is trying to operate completely shocked, processing their emotions, and dealing with the loss," said Costello.
Costello said she worked with pilot Craig Layson's wife, Maggie, so this tragedy hits very close to home for her and her staff. But says she’s trying to keep her emotions in perspective knowing the grief and shock the staff at K2, and the victims' families, are feeling.