Troopers identify 2 people killed in plane crash in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

A pilot from Anchorage and Glennallen and a passenger from out of state were the two people killed in a plane crash last week in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska State Troopers said Thursday.

The Cessna 185 may have broken up in midair near Chitina on Feb. 4, according to a federal investigators. Pilot Christopher Maize, 45, and 36-year-old passenger Andrew Broders of Washington both died in the crash.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was notified about the crash just before noon when an emergency locator transmitter was activated from the Copper Valley Air Service plane. The crash was in a remote, mountainous area roughly 13 miles northeast of Chitina and in a wooded section of a gradual slope, troopers wrote in an online report.

A crew from the rescue center flew to the area on the day of the crash and confirmed no one had survived. Officials returned to the site the next day but did not recover the bodies until Saturday, troopers said. An NTSB investigator was expected to reach the scene Tuesday and help with wreckage recovery, the organization said.

The plane, which also carried U.S. mail, was flying from Gulkana to McCarthy when it crashed.

Rescuers described the debris as being in two distinct locations, which could indicate the airplane may have broken apart in flight, said Clint Johnson, Alaska chief for the National Transportation Safety Board. Midair breakups are uncommon and often involve bad weather. Johnson said investigators are looking into the weather, but that it did not appear to be an immediate factor.

In an online fundraiser, Maize was described by friends as “a gentle, kind and humble man who was a diligent and careful pilot who loved sharing Alaska and the National Park with visitors.”

The Copper Valley Air Service is family owned and based at Gulkana Airport in Glennallen, according to the company website. The company specializes in flightseeing tours, air taxi and charter services, backcountry or hunting dropoffs in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Copper River Basin and McCarthy to Kennicott.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.