Pilot killed in plane crash near Houston High School

Alaska State Troopers have released a preliminary identification of the victim of a fiery plane crash near Houston High School Thursday afternoon.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email troopers believe the pilot was Big Lake resident Joe Mielke, 23.

"Family and friends on scene identified the pilot and sole occupant as (Mielke)," Peters wrote. "The (state medical examiner's office) will have to do a positive ID."

Clint Johnson, the NTSB's chief Alaska investigator, said crash investigator Millicent Hoidal was en route to the scene by 2:30 p.m. In an evening update, Johnson said Hoidal would interview any possible witnesses, but the federal safety agency was focusing on recovering the wreckage to reopen the road.

"They could be out there all night," Johnson said.

Ken Barkley, deputy director of Mat-Su Borough Emergency Services, said the plane went down behind Houston High School just before 2 p.m. and was reported to be on fire with the pilot still inside.

The plane was upright and had stopped at an angle across a two-lane road surrounded by birch trees off Hawk Lane, about 1 mile from the school. The tip of its left wing had been ripped off. As of 2:40 p.m. the fire had been extinguished and the plane was partially covered with a red tarp. Houston Fire Department and several state troopers were on the scene.

According to an FAA database, Mielke received his pilot's license in 2014 and his instructor's license early this year.