UPDATED: SECURITY AVIATION STANDS DOWN OPERATIONS
UPDATED: REMAINS REMOVED
Alaska State Troopers in Soldotna began receiving reports of a crash on Friday night near Cooper Landing. As of 3 pm Saturday, the search was still underway.
As of Saturday night, no survivors are expected, and the search has been changed to a recovery mission to begin at daylight on Dec. 1, weather permitting.
Security Aviation confirmed one of its planes was overdue to Seward on Friday night, and reports are circulating that a fireball was seen in the vicinity of Jim’s Landing near the Sterling Highway.
“We are devastated to learn the three people aboard our Piper Navajo are believed to have perished Friday near Cooper Landing at approximately 7:15 p.m. Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and loved ones. We are working closely with the NTSB, the FAA, and other appropriate agencies as they conduct their investigation,” the company said in a statement on Saturday night. “At this time, our priority is assisting the affected families, and our staff. We have voluntarily implemented a safety stand down, suspending all operations until further notice. We are grateful for the first responders and volunteers assisting in the response, and will provide more information at the appropriate time.”
Pilots flying on the Kenai Peninsula on Friday night heard radio traffic from a National Guard C-130 in the area, during what was an apparent search. The weather was fair with some clouds from 2,000 to 10,000 feet in mountainous areas, according to MRAK aviation sources.
The plane is a Piper Navajo PA-31 with a pilot from Security Aviation and two passengers.
Weather and terrain prevented getting boots on the ground in the area, said Ken Marsh of Alaska State Troopers. Search and Rescue operations are underway and Trooper Helo 3 is on the scene, he said. Sunset is at 3:52 pm in Southcentral Alaska today.
Flights into Seward after dark usually cannot done with IFR (instrument navigation) but can be done with VFR (Visual Flight Rules). The IFR approach to Seward requires a 2,500-foot minimum ceiling cloud cover.
A different medevac company turned the flight down because of the conditions didn’t allow a legal approach. The Security Aviation flight was chartered to Medevac Alaska. There were no patients onboard at the time.
The crash site was reached by rescuers on Dec. 1, and recovery efforts completed at approximately 3 pm, with the remains of the occupants removed and transported to the State Medical Examiner in Anchorage for positive identification.
This story will be updated.