Wreckage of plane found in Alaska river but pilot unaccounted for

The wreckage of a Yute Air plane missing after flying out of Bethel Saturday was found crashed in Alaska's Kwethluk River Sunday evening.

By Monday night, federal crash investigators were at the scene trying to piece together "highly fragmented" wreckage but the pilot was still unaccounted for.

The Cessna 207 left Yute Air's regional airline hub in Bethel Saturday at about 8:30 a.m. following engine maintenance, with only a pilot aboard. The pilot planned to head east of the community for a 3 1/2-hour post-maintenance check flight but never returned.

A massive search by military, law enforcement and private pilots ended Sunday about 6:45 p.m., when a Yute Air pilot discovered wreckage of the plane in the river about 40 miles east of Bethel, Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead of the Alaska National Guard said Monday.

Two investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board flew to Bethel early Monday and arrived at the scene by afternoon, said NTSB Alaska chief Clint Johnson.

They found much of the airplane submerged in the river, Johnson said.

"There's parts and pieces sticking out of the water," he said. "River waters have done their job on this thing and have torn it up pretty good."


The investigators haven't been able to thoroughly examine all parts of the plane, and are trying to recover pieces of it from the river before it washes away, he said.

No remains of the pilot, who has not been named, had been discovered as of Monday. A separate search-and-rescue effort for the pilot is ongoing.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.