Body of Yute Air pilot recovered from Kwethluk River

The body of the Yute Air pilot who died when his plane crashed into a Southwest Alaska river was recovered Thursday, along with the plane's wreckage, Alaska State Troopers said.

Blaze Highlander, 47, of Olympia, Washington, was flying a Cessna 207 on a post-maintenance check flight from the company's Bethel base Saturday but never returned.

His remains were discovered amid the plane's wreckage in the Kwethluk River on Monday, but couldn't immediately be retrieved.

"The delay was due to the aircraft being submerged in the river and the inability to free the victim from the aircraft safely," trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said. "It was deemed necessary to wait for a salvage crew to remove the aircraft from the water for (safe) access to the passenger compartment. At one point during the recovery effort, lightning strikes were occurring near the wreckage. It was not safe to stay on scene."

A salvage company recovered the plane, and Highlander's body, from the river Thursday, troopers said. His remains will be taken to the State Medical Examiner Office for an autopsy.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Megan Edge

Megan Edge is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch and Alaska Dispatch News.