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2 pilots dead in Alaska cargo plane crash

Jerzy Shedlock

The bodies of two Anchorage pilots were recovered on Saturday from the wreckage of an ACE Air Cargo plane that went missing in stormy weather on Friday about 20 miles northeast of Dillingham in Southwest Alaska, according to Alaska State Troopers. 

Alaska Air National Guard pararescuers located the wreckage at about 6 a.m. Saturday in the Muklung Hills, not far from the site of the 2010 crash that killed U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. The bodies of Capt. Jeff Day, 38, and 20-year-old Neil Jensen were recovered and flown to Dillingham, and then on to Anchorage, where they were turned over to the Alaska State Medical Examiner, troopers said. 

The twin-engine Beechcraft 1900 plane had been due at the local airport early Friday and was cleared to land but never arrived. Its emergency locator beacon began transmitting a signal at about 9:15 a.m. Friday, but initial efforts to reach the area by snowmachine were turned back by poor weather, troopers spokesperson Megan Peters said. 

An Air Guard helicopter followed the beacon's coordinates and located the site of the crash, but low hanging clouds made it impossible to see anything on the ground. Crews were forced to turn back for several hours, and search efforts resumed around 7 p.m. The National Weather Service reported skies overcast at 1,500 feet, with rain and light snow shortly before the plane went missing. Visibility was 7 miles with winds out of the east at 15 knots, gusting to 23. Within an hour, however, the conditions had degraded to skies overcast at 600 feet, visibility at 2 miles with rain and snow.

The ACE crash was the second fatal airplane incident in Alaska this week. On Monday, three people died when a Cessna 182 following the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race crashed in Rainy Pass, killing all three aboard.

Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com