2 Palmer men dead in small-plane crash

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- Two Palmer men were killed when their plane crashed 10 miles north of Sutton, Alaska State Troopers said.

Troopers identified them as Adam Norton, 30, and Derrik Swanson, 31.

At 9:45 p.m. Thursday, the Rescue Coordination Center got a report that Norton and Swanson were overdue, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said Friday morning. The men were thought to be scouting moose, she said. They were supposed to have returned by 7 p.m. from the Knik Lake area.

The crash occurred in rugged terrain outside Sutton in the Talkeetna Mountains, about 40 miles by air from Knik Lake, which is along Knik-Goose Bay Road outside Wasilla.

The Rescue Coordination Center deployed an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter and C-130 to look for the plane Thursday night. At 3:52 a.m. Friday, members of the Alaska Air National Guard's 210th and 212th rescue squadrons located the missing plane by homing in on its emergency signal, troopers said.

Authorities didn't say which man was piloting the plane. Norton is a certified private pilot who owns a 1966 American Champion Citabria, according to state and federal records.

At about noon Friday, a troopers helicopter picked up troopers and personnel with Mat-SAR and Alaska Mountain Rescue Group to begin recovering the crash victims' bodies, Peters said. "We think we'll be able to get this accomplished today barring any unforeseen circumstances."

The crash site is in rough terrain. Efforts are also hampered by weather and the condition of the aircraft, troopers and federal investigators said.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration hope to get to the crash site sometime Friday, the NTSB's Clint Johnson said late Friday morning. Rescuers described the area to him as "very steep and alder-covered," Johnson said. Investigators will need to fly in by helicopter, then hike to the crash site.

He said they are hoping to talk with any witnesses who might have spotted the plane Thursday night.

"There are a lot of hunters in this area this time of year," Johnson said.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.