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Troopers: Two men dead in Southcentral Alaska plane crash

Ben Anderson

Alaska State Troopers reported that two men were killed in a plane crash when their aircraft went down in Southcentral Alaska late Thursday.

Troopers said  that the aircraft was supposed to have arrived in the area of Knik Lake area by 7 p.m. after leaving from the vicinity of Wolf Lake, but was reported overdue at about 9:45. The Rescue Coordination Center dispatched an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter and C-130 -- along with members of the 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons -- in order to look for the overdue plane.

Using a signal from an emergency beacon aboard the plane, searchers located the aircraft just before 4 a.m. Friday, about 10 miles north of Sutton in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. Initially, troopers reported that 30-year-old Adam Norton and 31-year-old Derrik Swanson, both of Palmer, had been killed in the crash. An updated dispatch said that the state medical examiner had not yet been able to make positive identification of the two victims due to difficulty reaching the crash site and recovering the bodies, so any identifications were tentative. The next of kin of the two men presumed to be aboard the aircraft had been notified, troopers said.

Recovery efforts were ongoing as of about 11:00 Friday morning, with weather, terrain and "the condition of the crashed aircraft" hindering recovery personnel. 

"(The crashed aircraft) is in an area with very steep terrain, and the terrain and the weather is going to be a factor in getting in there," said Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. "Essentially, it’s a mountain ravine-type area, so it makes it challenging to get back (to the crash site)."

The bodies were recovered shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, and through identification found on the bodies, troopers confirmed that the deceased were Norton and Swanson.

The crash is the second fatal accident in a week for Alaska aviators. On Saturday afternoon, 31-year-old pilot Robert Lilly and his 27-year-old girlfriend Jessi Nelsen were killed when their plane went down at Merrill Field in Anchorage. Preliminary reports indicated Friday that a stall was a likely factor in that crash.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com