State and federal authorities have reopened an investigation into a small plane that vanished in 2008 near Juneau, carrying a deputy commissioner for Alaska and his son, after wreckage was discovered Wednesday on an island south of Juneau, an official said.
The wreckage in thick woods on Admiralty Island was reported to the National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday afternoon, said Clint Johnson, NTSB chief for the Alaska region.
The agency is "reasonably certain" it's the same Cessna 182 floatplane that went missing Aug. 9, 2008, Johnson said. Human remains have also been found, he said.
On board were Brian Andrews, deputy commissioner for revenue, and his 24-year-old son, Brandon, both of whom were described as good pilots, according to news accounts at the time. The men were returning to Juneau from a family camping trip at Admiralty Island's Young Lake when the plane vanished.
The Andrews family, which had long kept searching, feels strongly that it's the same plane, said Johnson. The investigation is early, but Johnson said he understands that the plane's discovery involved friends or family.
"We are virtually assured that this is the same plane, but until we have eyes and boots on the ground," the agency will not provide official confirmation it was the Andrews' plane, Johnson said.
B.J. Andrews, 37 and the oldest sibling in the family, said Thursday he was not ready to comment until he could receive more information from troopers.
"But I'm very glad the troopers and the other involved agencies are following up on the matter," he said.
The investigation into the cause of the accident will pick up where it left off, Johnson said.
"We were notified late afternoon yesterday, and we are forming a plan to get down there," Johnson said.
The Alaska State Troopers and other agencies are also involved in the response, he said.
The wreck was discovered in a heavily wooded area near Young Lake, he said. Thick brush and tall trees hurt searchers' ability to find the plane from the air and ground.
Jerry Burnett worked at the Department of Revenue when the plane went missing. He was a close friend of Brian Andrews' and took over his role as deputy commissioner, a position Burnett holds today.
After the plane disappeared, employees with the department and others collected enough donations to hire a helicopter to search for the wreck. That search effort extended beyond the official search, Burnett said.
"You can't see into the trees," Burnett said. "Even walking into woods, you can only see a few feet from side to side."
"He was one of my closest friends," he said. "The whole department was in shock."