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2 dead in plane crash in mountains near McGrath

Federal investigators are looking into the cause of an airplane crash that killed two people in the mountains near McGrath.

The two people, who were not immediately identified, were found dead in the wreckage Friday about 37 miles northeast of McGrath in the Sunshine Mountains, said Major Guy Hayes, a spokesman for the Alaska National Guard. Alaska State Troopers were notified of the crash a little after 11 p.m. Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

The crash was reported by another pilot in the area, and the National Guard launched a search shortly after midnight, Hayes said. Pararescuemen arrived by helicopter and found the two people dead in the plane, which was at about 2,000 feet elevation in the mountains, he said.

A dog in the plane was found alive and was hoisted to the helicopter, he said. Efforts to recover the bodies were stopped because of bad weather, and the guardsmen returned to McGrath, where they turned the dog over to troopers, Hayes said.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which has called in additional personnel to respond to several accidents in Alaska this week, is investigating the crash.

The aircraft, a Piper PA-18 built in 1979, is registered to Dolores Graybill, 78, according to Federal Aviation Administration Records. She and her husband, John Graybill, 79, live in Chugiak, according to public records. There was no answer at the home Friday.

A man who answered the phone at a listing for John Graybill Jr. in Custer, Wash., declined to comment.

"The family is still reeling from the effects of this," he said.

Graybill was known in some aviation circles and was described in National Geographic's Adventure Magazine in 2001 as a "legendary bush pilot, notorious poacher in Alaska's Outlaw Wars, and, at 70 years old, the last of a dying breed."

The author of the Adventure article, Jeff Wise, on Thursday posted a blog entry on Psychology Today's site recounting Graybill's experiences and relating them to Monday's crash near Dillingham that killed former Sen. Ted Stevens.

Wise writes that Graybill asserted in 2000 that he had been in at least five potentially fatal crashes and that he had survived by simple luck.

By JAMES HALPIN

jhalpin@adn.com

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