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Nation/World

December 2, 2013

NTSB officials examine Alaska crash wreckage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Federal investigators yesterday started documenting the wreckage of a plane crash in remote southwest Alaska that killed four people and injured six Friday night.

A break in weather conditions allowed two investigators — from the National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration — yesterday to reach the scene where a single-engine aircraft went down near the village of Saint Marys, said Clint Johnson, the chief of the NTSB’s Alaska regional office.

“The goal is to document the wreckage at the accident site to the best of their ability and be able to talk to witnesses,” Johnson said yesterday afternoon.

He added that “it’s way too early to draw any conclusions” about what caused the accident.

Investigators will be at the site for at least a day, possibly two, collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses, Johnson said. Another NTSB investigator in Anchorage also is hoping to interview survivors of the crash, he said.

The Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 crashed around 6:30 p.m. Friday four 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.

About 7 p.m. Friday, one of the survivors, Melanie Coffee, made a frantic call for help resuscitating her 5-month-old baby, then walked nearly a mile to lead searchers hampered by cold and fog to the crash site.

Saint Marys has about 500 people and is 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.

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