2 found dead in plane crash near Healy
A pair of Fairbanks men are presumed dead after an overdue pilot’s plane was found crashed with two people inside this weekend, Alaska State Troopers said.
Word that Timothy Sonnenberg, 45, and Jason Roberts, 43, hadn’t come back from a hunting trip to the Nenana River reached troopers just before 10 a.m. Friday, according to an online dispatch.
According to a GoFundMe account to cover search expenses, Sonnenberg and Roberts' last known coordinates were near the west fork of the Delta River. By Sunday, contributors had donated more than $26,000 toward the search, which was being coordinated by the Civil Air Patrol.
“On [Saturday], a pilot reported that he observed a plane south of Gold Creek which appeared to be burned,” troopers wrote. “There did not appear to be any survivors.”
Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska chief, said Sunday that the Piper PA-12 had crashed about 35 miles east of Healy. It wasn't initially clear when the aircraft had gone down.
"We haven't been to (the) site yet, but preliminary reports are that there was a post-crash fire," Johnson wrote. "That came from aerial search crews that found wreckage last evening, but could not land due to terrain."
The 11th Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage sent a helicopter crew to the crashed plane Sunday, confirming that both of its occupants were dead.
“The plane has been identified as Sonnenberg’s and two people, believed to be Sonnenberg and Roberts, were located deceased inside the wreckage,” troopers wrote. “Body recovery efforts are underway.”
Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said she wasn’t aware of any other aircraft reported overdue in the area over the weekend. Investigators were still gathering details on the overdue hunters’ itinerary, as well as making arrangements to visit the crash site.
“It was a military helicopter that went out to the crash site this morning,” Peters said.
Two NTSB investigators will visit the wrecked plane later this week, Johnson said, but the crash occurred in "mountainous terrain" amid weather including low clouds, fog and rain.
"We'll be looking at (the) forecast for the next few days," Johnson wrote.
Peters said Sunday that the bodies from the plane have been recovered. They will be sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage for identification and autopsy.
Sonnenberg and Roberts' next of kin have been notified.
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