Four die after planes collide in midair near Trapper Creek

July 30, 2011 

Four people died after a midair collision Saturday afternoon between two single-engine floatplanes at Amber Lake about 12 miles southwest of Trapper Creek, the Alaska State Troopers reported.

The lake is about 90 miles northeast of Anchorage.

One of the planes, a Cessna 180, crashed and burned. All aboard died as a result of the crash, said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.

Troopers were waiting for the State Medical Examiner's officer to confirm their identities before releasing any names of those who died.

The bodies have been recovered, said Peters.

The second plane, a Cessna 206, landed safely on a runway in Anchorage. Its pilot and lone occupant, Kevin Earp, 56, of Eagle River, was uninjured, Peters said. The plane's floats were heavily damaged in the collision, she said.

When the plane landed, it had a piece of debris tangled in its floats.

The planes hit each other about 2:15 p.m., Peters said. National Transportation Safety Board investigators believe the pilot of the Cessna 206 reported the collision and subsequent crash.

There are a few homes and recreational cabins around the lake, which is accessible by taking Petersville Road to Oil Well Road, said Dennis Brodigan, emergency services director for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

A rescue crew from Trapper Creek drove trucks, then four-wheelers, to get to the downed plane, Brodigan said.

"When our responders got on scene, the plane was fully engulfed in flames," he said. They used fire extinguishers to douse the flames, he said.

The pilot of the second plane decided to land in Anchorage, rather than at Amber Lake, which has limited or no capabilities to deal with an emergency, Brodigan said.

The second plane had landed by 3:30 p.m. on a hard-surface runway at Stevens International Airport, said NTSB investigator Larry Lewis.

Such landings -- floats skidding across a paved runway -- are not out of the ordinary in an emergency, said airport manager John Parrott.

"It was as uneventful as it could be," Parrott said.

The airport's north-south runway was closed for the emergency landing from about 3:15 to 4:30 p.m., Parrott said.

The plane was removed from the runway and investigators talked with the pilot, Lewis said by phone. The investigator said he was driving north to the crash site late Saturday.


Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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