Two dead in crash of small plane in Eagle River Valley

Two people died when a small plane crashed Monday in Eagle River Valley, the Alaska State Troopers said.

The names of the victims were not immediately released. It was not immediately clear what may have caused the plane to crash.

The Cessna 172P left Merrill Field Airport in Anchorage and flew up Knik River Valley toward Knik Glacier and Lake George before heading into Chugach State Park, said spokesman Austin McDaniel.

Officials believe the crash likely occurred sometime between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday, said Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board Alaska office chief.

Authorities were notified just after 8 p.m. that the flight was overdue. The wreckage was discovered by an airborne good Samaritan searcher around 10:45 p.m., troopers said. It was not immediately clear when the plane had departed Merrill Field Airport or when it was due to return, McDaniel said.

The crash happened in the upper elevations of the Eagle River Valley, according to Johnson. McDaniel described the surrounding terrain as steep and mountainous. Additional details about the location were not immediately available.

The plane is owned by Angel Aviation Flight School, Johnson said. The school operates out of Merrill Field Airport and offers aircraft rental as well as flight instruction, according to the company’s website.

“We don’t know if it was an instructional flight or a familiarization flight for a new prospective student or employee — we just don’t have those details yet,” Johnson said.

An investigator with the NTSB went to the crash site with troopers Tuesday morning, Johnson said. Alaska Mountain Rescue Group volunteers were helping troopers with recovery efforts that afternoon, he said.

There were multiple layers of cloud cover in the Eagle River Valley Monday night, said National Weather Service meteorologist Pam Szatanek. Winds throughout mountainous areas can vary widely based on the terrain, she said.