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US Coast Guard: Missing plane found 24 hours later with all 3 occupants alive

By KTVA CBS 11 News 9:43 PM January 29, 2017

Last updated at 10:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center has confirmed that a missing Cessna bound for the Kenai Peninsula was found Monday. All aboard were alive when rescuers found them, a spokesman confirmed.

The U.S. Coast Guard was contacted for assistance with the search on Monday, according to USCG Petty Officer John-Paul Rios. In a phone interview, he explained a USCG helicopter took off from Air Station Kodiak around 2:30 p.m. and found the missing plane about an hour later above the Chakachatna River, which empties into Cook Inlet northwest of the Kenai Peninsula.

“They said they landed up on a ridge line there but then the plane flipped because they landed in too-deep snow,” Rios explained.

Three people walk away after their Cessna 180 crashed near a ridgeline landing strip in the vicinity of the Chakachatna River in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The helicopter was able to land and load three people from the plane — identified as two adults and one minor, according to the USCG on Tuesday. There were no other occupants.

The family of the stranded group later confirmed their identities: Josh Smith had piloted the small plane, and was accompanied by his father-in-law, John White, and his daughter.

The trio was flown to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, where emergency medical personnel waited. Rios said a family member picked them up after they were medically evaluated. He said the group did not report any injuries and medical personnel also said they had no apparent injuries.

Rios said the plane had been reported missing roughly 24 hours beforehand on Sunday.

Original story

On Sunday, aviation officials confirmed a plane headed from Anchorage for the Kenai Peninsula went missing.

Clint Johnson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a phone interview that the flight took off from Lake Hood and was headed to the Kenai and Soldotna area.

When it failed to arrived, a search effort began, led by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, Johnson said. The ARCC said the mission was ongoing as of 9 p.m. Sunday.

Information about those likely aboard the plane was not immediately available from search officials, but the Alaska District Church of the Nazarene posted a statement regarding the missing flight to its Facebook page.

“Three of our Soldotna Naz. folkes (sic) are missing from an overdue flight,” the post read. “A beacon has been activated and located and a helicopter is in route (sic).”

Bruce Hardesty, the senior pastor for the Soldotna Church of the Nazarene, explained Monday that the beacon was sending out a signal, but as it was an older model, it did not relay the coordinates for the plane’s location.

Along with other planes and a helicopter assisting with the search, Hardesty said that some people have started looking for the plane via snowmachine.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates as they become available.

KTVA 11’s Daniella Rivera, Shannon Riddle and Heather Hintze contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained ages for the three occupants of the plane obtained from USCG, however those were incorrect. 

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