Update: Troopers identify the pilots killed in Tuesday's crash as Bethel resident Derrick Cedars and Anchorage resident Greggory McGee.ANCHORAGE –
Two people are dead following a plane crash about 30 miles southeast of Bethel Tuesday evening, authorities said.
The Hageland Aviation-operated plane went down just before 4 p.m., said Steve Smith, director of sales and marketing for Ravn Alaska, which Hageland Aviation is part of. It was a training flight with two pilots on board and no passengers, Smith wrote in a statement.
The pilots were identified by Alaska State Troopers as 42-year-old Bethel resident Derrick Cedars and Anchorage resident Greggory McGee, 46. Family and friends of the two men remember them as experienced and well-loved.
“He was a good pilot, really good experience too — really kind to everybody, going to miss him for sure,” said Bethel resident Bessie Berlin, a relative of Cedars.
“He’s going to be greatly missed by all of us who knew him,” said Aero Air employee Steven Lewis, one of McGee’s former co-workers. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”
The reason why the Cessna 208 Caravan crashed is under investigation, said AST spokeswoman Megan Peters.
There was a post-crash fire, said Clint Johnson, chief of the Alaska regional office with the National Transportation Safety Board.
An Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter, along with troopers and local fire personnel, responded and found the wreckage Tuesday night, Peters said. A large debris field, charred willows and the remains of the two pilots were discovered at the scene, she wrote in an email Wednesday morning.
The NTSB is planning to send an investigator to the crash site early Wednesday, Johnson said, and Peters said troopers will return to the scene to continue recovery efforts.
The aircraft was reported overdue to Bethel troopers around 6 p.m., Peters said. Less than an hour later, a local pilot reported to troopers that they “spotted burning wreckage outside of Bethel,” Peters wrote in an email.
She said the plane went down by a fishing weir near Three Step Mountain — an area known to be a good place for pilots to train.
This is the second Cessna 208 to crash in Alaska in recent months. Four people died when a plane crashed near St. Mary’s back in November. Ten people were on the Mountain Village-bound plane that left from Bethel. The cause of that crash has not been determined.