Three people were killed Friday afternoon and a fourth was severely injured in a plane crash near Moose Pass, according to Alaska State Troopers.
The small plane crashed into a mountain on the north side of Tern Lake, near the junction of the Sterling Highway and the Seward Highway, around 4 p.m. Friday, troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain said Saturday.
Pilot Michael Scott Christy, 73, and his wife, Jean Tam, 69 — both from Anchorage — were killed, along with 29-year-old Suzanne Glass from Sterling, Virginia.
The survivor, 28-year-old Joy Cooper of Paris, Texas, was airlifted to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage in critical condition, troopers said.
Cooper’s family said she was on vacation in Alaska with some friends when the plane crashed. She suffered multiple broken bones and a partially collapsed lung but was responsive in the hospital Saturday, her family said.
The bodies of the passengers who were killed had not yet been recovered Saturday, DeSpain said. A helicopter was dispatched to retrieve them.
“Because of the terrain, and also it’s very smoky there as well, recovery efforts are challenging,” DeSpain said.
Smoke from the nearby Swan Lake wildfire has hampered visibility throughout Southcentral Alaska, and a dense smoke advisory is in effect for the Kenai Peninsula through Sunday morning.
The smoke has reduced visibility in the north Kenai Mountains to generally less than 5 miles, according to the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit.
Clint Johnson, chief for the Alaska region of the National Transportation Safety Board, said the plane was privately owned, but no information was available about what kind of plane it was, its origin or its intended destination.
An NTSB investigator was en route to the crash site Saturday. The agency will be pulling weather data and, ideally, interviewing Cooper and witnesses as it tries to determine the cause of the crash, Johnson said.
The wreckage will be taken to either Anchorage or Wasilla in the coming days, where investigators will be able to examine it more closely, Johnson said.