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Icing may have caused medevac plane crash

Alex DeMarban
This Beechcraft King Air crashed en route to Atqasuk.
NTSB photo
The plane went down about 60 miles southwest of Barrow.
NTSB photo
The plane suffered considerable structural damage, but there were no serious injuries.
NTSB photo

An aviation safety investigator said he's looking into the possibility that a North Slope Borough medevac plane that crashed early this morning failed after ice built-up on its wings.

"There was icing forecast in the weather, and the pilot had reported some icing conditions on the airplane itself," said Larry Lewis, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator who said he has talked to borough officials about the incident.

He has yet to talk to the pilot, he said.

The Beechcraft King Air 200 crashed about 2:30 a.m. on approach to the Atqasuk airport, about seven miles west of the village, he said. The plane belonged to the borough's Search and Rescue Department and was on a medevac flight to the village of 230 people some 60 miles southwest of Barrow.

Lewis said he understands the three people aboard - the pilot and two other borough employees - were not seriously hurt.

"I've only heard scrapes and bruises," he said.

Ice build-up can disrupt the air flow over the wings that keeps the plane aloft. The NTSB will lead the investigation into the crash and will work with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is expected to send a man to the scene tomorrow, Lewis said.

"I'm waiting for some pictures from some folks who were supposed to go out and secure (the scene) for us," he said. "We're going to interview the pilot and the folks who were on board and took a look at the procedures and the weather.

The icing possibility will draw their initial attention.

"It is equipped for flight into known icing so it should have all the appropriate equipment, so we'll be taking a look to make sure everything worked," he said.

(Update: The North Slope Borough issued a press release this afternoon. It reads: On May 16, 2011, at approximately 2:33 a.m. the North Slope Borough King Air crashed while en route to Atqasuk for a medevac. There were three crew/medevac members aboard and none were injured seriously. Two employees were treated at Samuel Simmonds Medical Hospital in Barrow, AK early this morning and released. Icing is suspected as a cause, but has not been confirmed. The FAA will begin an investigation tomorrow.)

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