Plane crash investigators conduct interviews as survivors recover

casey.grove@adn.comDecember 2, 2013 

Richard and Rose Polty of Mountain Village were killed in the crash of a Hageland Aviation flight Friday, along with the pilot and a 5-month-old boy. (Photo courtesy Polty family)

UNKNOWN

The six survivors of a fatal plane crash Friday near the Western Alaska village of St. Marys continued to recover Monday in Anchorage while investigators looked into the cause of the crash.

Four people died after the single-engine Cessna 208 slammed into snow-covered tundra Friday night. Residents of nearby villages found the wrecked plane in the fog with help from one of the passengers, who walked nearly a mile to reach the rescuers. The six who made it out of the plane alive were flown to Anchorage for medical treatment.

They are Melanie Coffee, 25; Kylan Johnson, 14; Pauline Johnson, 37; Garrett Moses, 30; Tanya Lawrence, 35; and Shannon Lawrence, according to Alaska State Troopers, who did not release an age for Shannon Lawrence.

Killed in the crash were pilot, Terry Hansen, 68, Rose Polty, 57, Richard Polty, 65, and Wyatt Coffee, 5 months old.

The plane was operated by Hageland Aviation, which is owned by Era Alaska.

Five of the survivors were listed in fair condition Monday at two different Anchorage hospitals, and one, Kylan Johnson, had been released after receiving treatment, hospital spokespersons said.

An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board interviewed one survivor Sunday and another Monday, said Clint Johnson, head of the Alaska NTSB office. The investigator hoped to conduct more interviews Tuesday or later in the week, Johnson said.

"Obviously they just went through a very traumatic time in their lives, so their health and wellbeing comes first," Johnson said. "Our job is to be patient, and, when they're ready, be able to respond."

Era spokesman Steve Smith said the airline offered to fly the survivors' immediate family members to Anchorage for free.

Meantime, another NTSB investigator and a Federal Aviation Administration investigator were in St. Marys looking at the wreckage and taking pictures. Eventually the plane will be moved to Bethel or Anchorage for further examination, Johnson said. An NTSB meteorologist was also poring over weather reports at the time of the crash.

An Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman said those searching for the plane right after the crash faced freezing rain, low cloud ceilings and about a mile of visibility.

It was too early Monday to point to anything specific that might have caused the crash, Johnson said. "We're still very much in the formative stages."

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4343. Twitter updates: twitter.com/kcgrove.

 

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