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NTSB: Plane carrying Port Alsworth family ‘sunk’ in Lake Clark

By Megan Edge 8:25 AM December 20, 2016

The four people onboard a small aircraft traveling from a rural southwest Alaska community, inside of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, bound for Anchorage remain missing, along with the Piper PA-28-180 airplane they were traveling in. A preliminary report written by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says the aircraft is believed “to have sunk in the deep waters of Lake Clark.”

Pilot Kyle Longerbeam, 25, as well as Scott Blom, 45, and his children Zach Blom, 13, and Kaitlyn Blom, 14, are presumed dead, although their bodies have not been recovered, according to the report.

Before 10 a.m. on Dec. 7, Longerbeam and the three members of the Blom family left Port Alsworth to watch another family member play in the state high school volleyball tournament in Alaska’s biggest city. But they never made it.

In the report, the NTSB wrote the plane they were traveling in crashed shortly after taking flight.

Another pilot, not identified in the report, told investigators he spoke with Longerbeam “a couple of minutes” after Longerbeam took off. The pilot told Longerbeam the tops of clouds were at about 2,000 feet and that Miller Valley looked open. Longerbeam replied, “Looking good under here, I am going to keep going,” the preliminary report states. That was the last time anyone heard from anyone onboard.

No flight plan was filed, but when the plane failed to arrive at Merrill Field Airport concerned friends and family called the NTSB. In response, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert notice.

By 3 p.m., Dec. 7, a massive, multi-organization search was launched, which included personnel from Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska Air National Guard, Alaska State Troopers, the Civil Air Patrol and private pilots.

The next day personal belongings of those onboard, as well as a co-pilot’s chair and three airplane landing gear assemblies, were recovered from Lake Clark. Nothing else has been recovered, the NTSB said.

The recovery effort was called off on Dec. 12.

“A detailed wreckage and engine examination is pending recovery of the airplane,” the NTSB said.

On the day of the crash, low-lying fog was reported over Lake Clark and the Iliamna Airport — the nearest weather reporting facility, about 32 miles away from Port Alsworth —  reported wind gusts up to 22 knots, as well as overcast skies and 10 mile visibility.

NTSB regional chief Clint Johnson wasn’t sure the plane could be recovered, although he said the agency would keep monitoring the area. According to Johnson, other planes have crashed in the depths of Lake Clark, where water can be 870 feet deep, and have never been recovered.

Megan Edge can be reached by email, on Twitter and Facebook.

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