Update, 7 a.m. Friday: Alaska State Troopers have identified the second victim of the crash as Cody J. Rosania, 35, of Buckeye, Arizona. Rosania died in the crash Thursday. He was in the Cessna 185, which the troopers initially incorrectly identified as a Cessna 172. Another occupant of the Cessna, 40-year-old Rayne R. Rush, also of Buckeye, suffered life-threatening injuries.
Original story: Two small planes collided in midair above a Fairbanks airstrip Thursday afternoon, killing two people and sending two others to the hospital with serious injuries, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Troopers received a report at 1:55 p.m. regarding a crash at an airstrip — at Chena Marina Airport — that runs parallel to Dolphin Way in west Fairbanks, troopers said in an online report.
A single-engine Piper Super Cub flown by 73-year-old Larry D. Dalrymple of Fairbanks collided with a single-engine Cessna 185 piloted by Shane E. Bennett, 52, of Fairbanks, according to troopers. The planes then crashed to the ground, landing on the airstrip’s gravel runway, and the Cessna “burst into flames on impact,” troopers said.
Bennett died in the crash, along with a passenger in the Cessna, troopers said. That person’s next of kin has not yet been notified, troopers said.
A 40-year-old man “was extricated from the burning wreckage” and taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital with life-threatening injuries, troopers said. Dalrymple, in the Super Cub, was also taken to the hospital with serious injuries, according to troopers.
Local Federal Aviation Administration personnel were at the site and investigating, and the National Transportation Safety Board was notified of the crash, according to troopers.
Bennett lived near the Chena Marina Airport with his wife, according to aircraft mechanic Seth Crosby, who witnessed the aftermath of the crash. Dalrymple is also known by many at the airport, Crosby said.
Crosby said he did not know if the planes were landing or taking off when the crash occurred.
Crosby said he was working in a nearby hangar at the Chena Marina Airport on Thursday afternoon when he heard the sound of a plane propeller hitting the ground.
It was a sudden, rapid “thud, thud, thud” of impact that shook the ground, he said. Then Crosby was jolted by the sound of a second impact.
Still, Crosby said he didn’t quite register what had happened until he heard someone outside the hangar yell, “Pull him out!”
Crosby ran outside and saw the remnants of the Cessna — crashed and smoking — four hangars down, he said. It wasn’t yet on fire. People were rushing out of nearby hangars to help, including a man who was farther away and yelling to those close by to pull a man from the Cessna, he said.
“And then I saw the first bit of flame,” Crosby said. “And then I kind of see this silhouette of him.”
Several people pulled the man out of the fiery wreckage, dragging him toward the floatplane pond, Crosby said.
Some people tried with fire extinguishers to staunch the flames in the plane but it didn’t work, Crosby said. Soon, the fire grew big and loud, sounding like “a box of bullets was popping off” inside the burning plane, he said.
Crosby said he couldn’t see the other plane, the Piper Super Cub piloted by Dalrymple. The crash happened near the center of the airport, he said.
Several minutes later, emergency responders arrived, Crosby said.
Troopers, wildlife troopers, the Fairbanks Airport Police and Fire Department and Chena Goldstream Fire and Rescue initially responded to the crash, according to troopers.
The airfield remains closed indefinitely, troopers said.
ADN reporter Zaz Hollander contributed.