The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

November 30, 2013

Alaska plane crash victim led search to wreckage

(Continued)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska —

Lamont, the village police officer, is also trained as a health aide and was working with an ambulance driver Friday. At about 7 p.m., he said, Melanie Coffee called another on-duty health aide to say the airplane had crashed and she needed assistance.

“She was trying to do CPR to her newborn baby,” Lamont said. “She called for help.”

Lamont and the driver headed out in the ambulance to look for the crash. Other health officials put out the call for responders. Two state troopers assigned to the community joined the effort. People from Mountain Village and Pitka’s Point, which are connected to Saint Marys by local roads, helped search by car and snowmobile.

“Whoever had a vehicle was out there looking,” Lamont said

Fog hampered the search and responders could not immediately locate the crash site despite speaking to the injured.

“We had no clue,” Lamont said.

Coffee, who suffered chest trauma, tried whistling to alert searchers, Lamont said. She considered starting a fire to get their attention but eventually decided to start walking toward village lights. A GCI communications tower with a red strobe led her three-quarters of a mile to the village landfill.

“That’s where everyone found her,” Lamont said.

She led searchers back to the crash site. It was not accessible by snowmobile. Rescuers put the injured on stretchers and carried them out on foot to the landfill where they could be transported by ambulance to the village and then flown out.

A Coast Guard C-130 could not land because of fog but the injured were transported by a LifeMed Alaska flight and two other aircraft.

NTSB Investigator Clint Johnson said the cause of the crash has not been determined.

“It’s very much in the preliminary stages at this point,” he said.

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