A Cessna 208 Caravan conducting a training flight crashed Tuesday night outside of Bethel, killing the two men aboard, Alaska State Troopers reported. An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board and troopers were unable to visit the scene Wednesday but were expected to arrive at the crash site Thursday.
Two pilots were on the Hageland Aviation flight when the plane went down shortly before 4 p.m., according to the company. One of the pilots was reportedly in training. Troopers identified the victims of the crash as 42-year-old Derrick Cedars of Bethel and 46-year-old Greggory McGee of Anchorage. Hageland Aviation identified Cedars as the company's lead pilot in Bethel, who leaves behind a wife and two children. McGee is survived by his wife.
According to Clint Johnson, head of the Alaska NTSB office, residents in the area of Bethel "saw some smoke on the horizon," prompting an overflight of the area by another aircraft, from which the wreckage was spotted Tuesday night.
Wreckage was located in the vicinity of Three Step Mountain, which Bethel Search and Rescue volunteer Mike Riley said was about 30 miles southeast of the community. The Alaska Army National Guard launched a Blackhawk helicopter with troopers aboard to investigate the crash site, landing Tuesday evening.
"Troopers arrived on scene and observed a large debris field. Willows around the crash site were burned/ charred," troopers wrote in a dispatch. Troopers later reported they were unable to return to the scene Wednesday due to "logistical issues," and were thus not able to retrieve the remains of the two victims in the crash.
The NTSB sent investigator Chris Shaver to Bethel early Wednesday, but he was also unable to reach the site, according to Johnson. Also en route to assist in the investigation were an accident investigator from Cessna, an FAA inspector, and a representative for the flight operator. A helicopter was also on its way to Bethel to support the investigative team. Johnson said that after the scene had been thoroughly inspected, the wreckage was expected to be brought to Bethel, then Anchorage.
Hageland Aviation President Jim Hickerson was on his way to Bethel Wednesday, the company said.
"When you have a family as close as ours at Hageland Aviation, you hope you never receive this sort of news," Hickerson said in a release. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Greggory and Derrick as well as all those who have had a chance to work with them."
Tuesday's crash marks the second fatal accident for Hageland Aviation in recent months. In late November, another Cessna 208 went down outside the community of St. Marys, killing four and injuring six others. Hageland is one of the operators under the umbrella of Ravn Alaska, a recently-rebranded airline that also includes Frontier Flying Service and Era Aviation.
Troopers posted photos of the crash site here.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.