Pilot pulled alive from plane that crashed on Susitna River sandbar

Emergency responders Thursday night pulled an injured pilot from a plane that crashed on a sandbar of the Susitna River.

The pilot, in critical condition, was transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center after rescuers used crash axes and pry tools to cut into the Piper PA-12 aircraft, said David Bedard, public affairs representative for the 176th Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The crash occurred near Mile 79 of the Parks Highway, Bedard said at 9 p.m. Thursday night.

An HH60 Pave Hawk helicopter with a pararescue crew launched from the base for the rescue. Other agencies also responded.

The helicopter hovered about 120 feet above the wreckage to reduce the amount of rotor wash, or air turbulence. The rescuers were lowered to the scene. The pilot was alone in the plane.

"They fitted him with a cervical collar and hoisted him into aircraft," Bedard said. "While en route to the hospital, they relayed patient conditions so Providence could be ready as soon as he arrived."

Sometime before 5 p.m., rescue officials learned of the crash from another pilot who had seen the wreckage.

"That was central to finding the pilot quickly," Bedard said.

Rescue officials had initially understood the pilot had crashed into the water, after trying to return to the airport in Willow. The injured pilot had communicated sporadically with rescue officials through a cellphone, one official said.

The pilot's name was not released.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.