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Search continues for occupants of small plane found in Knik Arm

Rescue crews continued to search by land, air and sea Friday evening for the occupants of a single-engine Piper PA-18 Super Cub that was found earlier in the day on the mud flats of Knik Arm, upside down and partially submerged in water, according to the Alaska Air National Guard.

Alaska State Troopers said the plane was discovered at 6:10 a.m. Friday about 2 miles northeast of Birchwood Airport in Chugiak,, but no one was found in the area.

Troopers said they believe a pilot and passenger were in the plane. It may have taken off from the McGrath area, troopers said. They said they had no reports of an overdue aircraft.

The Guard's Rescue Coordination Center said it first got a report of the plane crash just after midnight. Two Air Force C-17 Globemasters were flying a training mission near the crash area and was diverted to help with the search because it has night-vision equipment.

Throughout the day, Alaska Air National Guard aircraft, Civil Air Patrol and a troopers helicopter searched, said Alaska Air National Guard spokesperson Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead.

The plane appeared intact but was upside down and partly submerged in a shallow area of swift-moving water. It may have been moved by the tide from where it went down, Olmstead said.

Olmstead said Friday afternoon that the "swift-moving, murky waters, changing tide levels and location of the aircraft" barred rescue crews from searching the inside the plane.

By 8:30 p.m., Anchorage Fire Department crews had still not been able to get inside the plane, she said in an email.

"AFD watercraft are unable to get to the aircraft during low tide because the water is too shallow," she said. "But when they are able to get to the location during high tide, the aircraft is not visible."

Meanwhile, the Civil Air Patrol had two aircraft searching the area Friday evening. Crews on two Army National Guard helicopters and three fire department watercraft also searched for anyone who may have been in the plane, Olmstead said.

The Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department and the pilot's friends and family members swept the nearby grounds, she said.

Olmstead said around 8:30 p.m that no survivors had been found.

"Search efforts will continue for the next couple hours and then suspend for the evening," she said. "A recovery effort will likely begin in the morning."

Troopers are asking anyone with information on the plane or its occupants to call them at 907-352-5401.

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