4 dead, 1 missing in Alaska sightseeing plane crash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Searchers said Monday that they found four people dead in a sightseeing plane carrying Polish tourists in Alaska’s Denali National Park — a day and a half after the thick clouds hampered the response to an emergency call.

Another person is missing and presumed dead after the crash Saturday night on a ridge about 14 miles (23 kilometers) to the southwest of Denali, North America’s highest mountain. After going down, the pilot reported via satellite phone that passengers were injured, but the connection failed before he could give details.

The aircraft was equipped with sleeping bags, a stove and food, giving hope that survivors would be found, despite the terrain described by the National Park Service as “very steep and a mix of near-vertical rock, ice and snow.”

Low clouds and rainy conditions prevented the crew from the spot of the wreck to clearing weather Monday allowed a helicopter to reach the crash site. A park ranger descended by short-haul line.

The ranger dug through the snow which was filled with the plane and found the bodies of four people. There were no footsteps or other disturbances in the snow that would have indicated that anyone from the aircraft, the park service said.

The plane is operated by K2 Aviation had taken off a Saturday night with a pilot and four passengers from Poland for a tour of the Kahiltna Glacier, which is the jumping off point for climbers attempting to climb Denali.

It crashed around 6 hours. Saturday in the vicinity of the top of 10,900 feet (3,300 meters), Thunder Mountain, above the glacier and is described by the park service as more of a milelong ridge than a mountain.

Climbing season on Denali has ended, but flights can still land on the glacier, allowing visitors to walk on the ice field, said park service spokeswoman Katherine e. belcher.

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