Wreckage of missing Yute Air plane discovered in Southwest Alaska river

Update, 10:30 a.m. Monday: A Yute Air plane missing after flying out of Bethel Saturday was found crashed in the Kwethluk River at 6:45 p.m. Sunday, according to the Alaska National Guard.

"Wreckage was initially spotted by a Yute Air pilot who was flying a company aircraft during the search," said National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead Monday. "The Civil Air Patrol flew over the area moments later and were able to confirm the aircraft wreckage."

Rescue and recovery efforts are underway, authorities said.

A preliminary FAA incident report posted Monday says that the missing Cessna 207 was found 40 miles from Bethel.

The preliminary data says the status of the pilot -- the lone person aboard the Cessna -- is "unknown."

Olmstead said that Alaska State Troopers headed to the scene in a jet boat early Monday morning, along with a trooper helicopter and investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA.

Original story: A major search is underway in Western Alaska for a Yute Air pilot who didn't return from a post-maintenance check flight out of Bethel on Saturday.


The pilot, flying a Cessna 207, left from the regional airline's hub in Bethel Saturday morning at about 8:30 a.m., said Clint Johnson, Alaska chief for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The pilot planned to head east of Bethel for a three-and-a-half hour flight, said Daniel Knesek, director of operations for Yute Air.

"He was considered overdue at 12:30 p.m. and we have been actively searching for him and the aircraft thereafter," Knesek wrote.

The pilot was the only person aboard the aircraft.

Johnson said it was too early for his agency, which investigates aircraft accidents, to be actively involved.

"We don't know if it's an accident yet," Johnson said.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center is heading up a search, said Alaska State Troopers spokesman Tim Despain, with trooper aircraft assisting Civil Air Patrol and military aircraft in the search.

Several local air carriers and pilots operating in Western Alaska have also joined the search.

"Hageland Aviation, Grant Aviation, Ryan Air and Renfro's Alaskan Adventures and the State Troopers have all provided pilots and aircraft to help since the search began," Knesek said. "Our efforts will continue."

Yute Air serves more than 22 villages in the area of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, with scheduled air service and charters on a fleet of Cessna 207 and 172 airplanes.

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.