Three Dead in Rainy Pass Plane Crash
Plane bound for Takotna found by rescue crews early Tuesday morning
ANCHORAGE - Three people were killed when their Cessna 182 crashed Monday night en route to Takotna.
The victims have been identified as 48-year-old Carolyn Sorvoja, her 10-year-old daughter Rosemarie Sorvoja, and the pilot of the plane, 59-year-old retired Anchorage Police Sergeant Ted Smith. All three victims were residents of Eagle River.
The trio left Merrill Field early Monday morning and was expected in Takotna around noon. The plane was reported overdue around 4 p.m. Monday, when Merrill Field Tower controllers reported that the aircraft had not arrived.
Rescuers located the overdue aircraft just after 10:20 Tuesday morning near the 4,000-foot level of Rainy Pass. The coordinated search and rescue effort included the Alaska Army and Air National Guard, as well as volunteers with the Iditarod Air Force and the Merrill Field Civil Air Patrol. Up to ten planes were in the air during the search and rescue Tuesday morning.
The Air National Guard said Smith did not file a flight plan with the FAA, so at first, rescue crews were unsure of where to start the search. After learning the plane was last seen around Rainy Pass, crews did a grid search of the area until they found the wreckage.
“We always go into a Search and Rescue mission as that, a search and rescue,” Air National Guard spokesperson Kalei Rupp said. “We're always hopeful that we find survivors.”
“Unfortunately in this case when we did find the wreckage and got on scene we saw there was three deceased people. That's never the outcome we want.”
The Sorvojas were not official Iditarod volunteers, but a spokesperson for the family said they were headed out to Takotna to help out on their own time.
Smith had spent 29 years with APD before retiring in 2011. His colleagues remember a passionate career police officer who dedicated his time to modernizing APD’s firearms training program.
“He served the public well, but he is truly respected by his fellow law enforcement officers throughout the that state,” former APD spokesman Dave Parker said. Parker worked with Smith in the Anchorage Police Department, and the two found themselves working together in their retirement as temporary officers with the Palmer police. “It was through the efforts and his brother that we have such a great firearms training program at APD.”
Smith’s colleagues in Palmer and Anchorage called him a meticulous pilot and a dedicated police officer.
“He had just that uncanny ability to reach out to people and make them feel as though this man was their law enforcement officer, this was their cop, this was Sergeant Ted Smith, somebody they knew, they respected, and they could count on,” Parker said.
Smith’s supervisor in Palmer, Police Chief Thomas Remaley, said he knew Smith as a colleague and as a friend. Professionally, Remaley said Smith’s leadership and positive attitude was “a good example” for the younger officers Smith routinely trained. Personally, he said Smith was the kind of man who finished his night shift’s paperwork early so that he could check on the baristas who opened the coffee stands around Palmer each morning.
Police Chief Mark Mew said that “300 police officers learned all they know from Ted Smith.”