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December 1, 2013

Officials try to reach crash site

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were attempting Sunday to reach the scene of a plane crash in remote southwest Alaska that killed four people and injured six Friday night.

Bad weather has kept investigators from reaching the scene where a single-engine aircraft went down near the village of Saint Marys.

Two NTSB investigators were waiting in Bethel, and they hoped to get to the crash site by Sunday afternoon, if weather allows, said Clint Johnson, the chief of the NTSB’s Alaska regional office.

“It’s way too early to draw any conclusions. Our goal at this point is to get on scene,” Johnson said Sunday.

Another NTSB investigator in Anchorage also is hoping to interview survivors of the crash, he said.

The Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 crashed at around 6:30 p.m. Friday 4 miles from Saint Marys. It left Bethel on a scheduled flight for Mountain Village and eventually Saint Marys but never reached Mountain Village.

The airplane would have been flying in freezing rain with a mile of visibility and a 300-foot ceiling, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers has said.

Johnson said the plane was equipped with an advanced electronic locator transmitter that went off on impact and sent a satellite signal with GPS coordinates alerting officials to the accident.

Saint Marys has about 500 people and is located 470 miles west of Anchorage. Like many Alaska villages, it is off the state road system. People routinely use small aircraft to reach regional hubs where they can catch another plane to complete trips to Anchorage or other cities.

Pilot Terry Hansen, 68, passengers Rose Polty, 57, Richard Polty, 65, and a 5-month-old infant, Wyatt Coffee, died in the crash.

The survivors included Melanie Coffee, 25, Pauline Johnson, 37, Kylan Johnson, 14, Tanya Lawrence, 35, Garrett Moses, 30, and Shannon Lawrence. All were seriously injured. All but Hansen and Shannon Lawrence are from Mountain Village, troopers said.

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