Two men from Alaska are dead following the crash of a small aircraft shortly after takeoff from an airport in Canada Monday evening.

 Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport (Credit: Google Maps)

According to an emailed release from Heather Jones, Yukon chief coroner, 56-year-old Charles Eric Benson of Palmer and 58-year-old Jeffrey Brian Babcock of Wasilla were on board the 1952 Cessna 170B that crashed shortly after taking off from the Erik Nielsen International Airport in Whitehorse at 5:30 p.m. Monday. The wreckage was located in a wooded area around 650 yards from the end of the runway. Emergency responders confirmed Benson and Babcock died on the scene.

Capt. Jeff Babcock was a retired Alaska Wildlife Trooper. (Courtesy Alaska State Troopers Facebook page)

An initial investigation showed the men left from Minnesota on Saturday and were traveling to Palmer, with a planned stop in Anchorage, after purchasing the plane. They arrived in Whitehorse from Watson Lake at 4:10 p.m. Monday and had left the runway at 5:29 p.m., according to the release from Jones. Officials believe that Babcock was piloting the plane, which was registered to Benson, at the time of the crash.

Transportation and Safety Board of Canada (TSBC) investigators arrived on scene Tuesday and will work in conjunction with the Yukon Coroner's Service, Whitehorse Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Forensic Identification Service.

According to its website, the TSBC will gather information and assess the crash.

A Facebook post from Alaska State Troopers identified Babcock as a retired Alaska Wildlife Trooper captain. According to the post, Babcock retired from the Department of Public Safety in 2004.

Both men worked for the National Park Service, according to a Tuesday evening statement from the agency, which said the pair were on a personal trip to bring the privately owned plane back to Alaska.

Babcock served as the NPS Alaska region aviation manager. After retiring from AST, he flew as a pilot for K2 Aviation for seven years before joining the NPS, according to the release.

Benson was the NPS Alaska region safety manager. He served for 25 years in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army and joined the park service after his retirement from military service.

“Jeff and Eric were two of our very best and the National Park Service and Alaska Region have suffered a terrible loss,” said NPS Alaska regional director Bert Frost. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Jeff and Eric and we are heartbroken.”

The NPS stated that both were skilled airmen.

A public service for Babcock will be held Saturday, June 1 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Palmer.

A private service is being planned for Benson.

Editor's note: This article has been edited to clarify that the men left Minnesota Saturday, but it's unclear if the purchase of the plane took place that day.

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