Alaska Air Guard crews rescue six survivors of remote plane crash

A small float plane crashed in heavy woods near Lake Clark, a remote National Park that can only be reached by air.
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Alaska rescue
The crew of an Alaska Air National Guard HH-60 and two pararescue specialists found and rescued 6 survivors of a plane crash in a remote National Park. Alaska National Guard photo by Seth LaCount.

A rescue helicopter crew and two pararescuemen from the Alaska Air National Guard found six survivors of a small plane crash — including two with severe injuries —   deep in a remote national park, far from any roads in early June. 

The crew responded to a call for a help from the pilot of a de Havilland Beaver, a small passenger plane popular in Alaska and commonly fitted with pontoons, or floats, to land on lakes and open water. The Beaver, with five passengers and a pilot, crashed in Lake Clark National Park, a remote mountain region about 100 miles west of Anchorage and reachable only by air.

The plane crashed near K’q’uya Vena, or Kijik Lake, a smaller body that flows into the larger, Qizhejeh Vena, or Lake Clark.

The Air Guard crew, from the 176th Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, used a signal from the Beaver’s emergency locator to home in on its location.

The crew found the Beaver in woods too dense to land, and inserted two pararescuemen to the site. The pararescuemen, who are trained as paramedics, assessed and treated two of the occupants, and found the other four were largely uninjured.

The HH-60 flew the four uninjured occupants to Port Alsworth, a small town on Lake Clark, and flew the two injured occupants to a hospital in Anchorage.

An official with the Guard said the crew was able to quickly locate the plane because it emergency beacon operated at 406-megahertz rather than an 121.5-megahertz model.

The newer ELTs can be picked up by satellites and narrow a crash down to just over a square mile, versus an area 10 times as large for the older models.

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