NPS locates 5th passenger in Denali plane crash
A recovery team has found the fifth body in the wreckage of a plane that crashed in Denali National Park on August 4.
Weather cleared just long enough Friday morning for two mountaineering rangers to take a helicopter to the site.
Rangers report they found the previously-unaccounted for body inside the wreckage of the plane.
The bodies of the deceased will not be recovered.
"Recovering the bodies and the aircraft under the current conditions would require an extremely complex and unfeasible recovery operation," The National Park Service wrote in a release Friday. "NPS looks at three primary factors when evaluating risk: severity, probability and exposure. Due to the unique challenges posed by the steepness of terrain, the crevasse, avalanche hazard and the condition of the aircraft, NPS has determined that recovery of the deceased and/or removal of the aircraft exceed an acceptable level of risk in all three factors and will not be attempted."
NPS says not only are there environmental and weather-related safety issues, the plane itself presents concerns.
"The crevasse where the wreckage sits is a dangerous and potentially fatal terrain trap should even a small avalanche occur," NPS wrote. "The aircraft is broken in half behind the wing, and the tail section of the fuselage is actively pulling down the aircraft towards a glacier 3,500 feet below. Additionally, more than two and a half feet of new snow has fallen at the crash site and loaded the nearly 45-degree slope just above the aircraft."
"We’re trying to do our best," said Mountaineering Ranger Chris Erickson in a press conference Friday. "And our best is to not have any further accidents or injuries. It felt good today to get up there and make that assessment. We’ve been hampered by weather all week. There is certainly an incomplete feeling, but at the same time, that’s out of our hands."
The K2 Aviation plane was piloted by Craig Layson of Saline, Michigan. Four Polish passengers were on board; their names have not been released publicly.
The plane crashed on the Thunder Mountain ridgeline at an elevation of 11,000 feet. It’s teetering on the edge of an icy crevasse.
Weather has hampered recovery efforts all week.
On Monday mountaineering ranger Chris Erickson was able to reach the crash site while tethered to a helicopter.
He only had a couple of minutes to look around the wreckage and found four bodies. He said he was not able to do a comprehensive search to find the fifth person at that time.
“It's dangerous, without the helicopter,” Erickson told reporters on Monday. “To climb there, especially this time of the year is not really an option. There’s significant overhead hazard for rock fall and for ice fall to try to attempt to climb there.”
A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board said investigators were not in Talkeetna on Friday because they were waiting for National Park Service rangers to complete their recovery efforts.
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