By ANDREW SELSKY
Peering through low cloud cover, rescuers aboard a military aircraft on Sunday were attempting to find a sightseeing plane that crashed with the pilot and four passengers aboard a day earlier in Alaska, high on a mountain ridge in Denali National Park and Preserve.
The pilot reported on his satellite phone Saturday that there were injuries, but authorities couldn’t get details before the satellite connection dropped. Some 20 hours after the de Havilland Beaver plane went down around 6 p.m. near the summit of 10,900-foot (3,300-meter) -high Thunder Mountain, there was still no word on their condition.
The tourists, whose identities and nationalities have not been released, and pilot had to spend the night on the mountain.
“There’s definitely low cloud cover,” park spokeswoman Katherine Belcher said in a telephone interview. “We’re waiting for an update from the HC-130 crew that’s up in the air.”
Thunder Mountain is a knife-edge ridge rising about 3,000 feet (915 meters) above two glaciers, 14 miles (23 kilometers) southwest of the summit of Denali, North America’s highest peak. The plane was reportedly carrying sleeping bags, a stove, a pot, food and first-aid kit, Belcher said in a statement.
An Air Guard HC-130 was flying over coordinates that came from the plane’s emergency locator transmitter and were offered by the pilot, said Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead of the Alaska National Guard. The plane’s ELT beacon alerted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center around 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Searchers don’t have eyes on aircraft yet because of cloud cover between them and the aircraft,” Olmstead said Sunday.
An Air Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter with a rescue crew, a National Park Service helicopter and another plane owned by the private tour company, K2 Aviation, that operates the downed plane can help with the search, Olmstead said.
A spokeswoman for K2 Aviation said she had no comment. The company, based in Talkeetna, Alaska, offers glacier landings.
“The glaciers found in Denali National Park are like no others in the world. Beneath the towering mountain peaks, you’ll understand why these immense ice fields attract people from all over the globe,” K2 Aviation says on its website.
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