Wreckage of Yute airplane found in Kwethluck River

Map of the Kuskokwim River watershed. (Creative Commons image by Kmusser)
Map of the Kuskokwim River watershed. (Creative Commons image by Kmusser)

This story was updated at 10:55 a.m.

Searchers have found the wreckage of the Yute Air plane that’s been missing since Saturday morning and the body of the missing pilot. The Associated Press reports Troopers say responders tentatively identified the body found in the Cessna 207 Monday as that 47-year-old Blaze Highlander of Olympia, Washington. A team Sunday evening spotted the Cessna 207 in the Kwethluk River. Lt. Col. Candice Olmstead is with the Alaska National Guard.

“There was a Yute Air pilot flying a company aircraft helping with the search. He flew over what he believed was the wreckage about 40 miles southeast of Bethel in the Kwethluk river. Shortly after that a civil air patrol flew over to confirm as a secondary source that it was the wreckage and they were able to confirm that it was indeed,” said Olmstead.

Crews on a jet boat and helicopter left early this morning to go to the scene. Megan Peters is a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers.

“We have our troopers as well as other agencies, including the National Transportation Safety Board, going to the site to look at the wreckage, to look at the circumstances, to hopefully recover the pilot,” said Peters.

The plane left Bethel at about 8:30 Saturday morning for a maintenance check and should have been back in three hours. It never returned.

The National Transportation Safety Board has two investigators on scene. Clint Johnson, the chief of the Alaska Office says because there was no radio communication prior to the plane going down, the physical evidence is a big part of their early investigation. Recent rains are complicating the recovery of the partially-submerged aircraft.

“The water over the top of the wreckage has increased, which will make it more difficult for them to get those parts and pieces out of the water,” said Johnson.

There were no passengers besides the pilot as it was on a maintains check flight following engine work. Johnson says his team is reviewing maintenance records and once the 207 is removed from the water, they hope to study it in Bethel or Anchorage.

“Obviously because this was a maintenance operation check flight, that was the reason for the flight, we want to make sure we don’t miss anything that may be mechanically wrong with the airplane,” said Johnson.

Johnson says the agency hopes to have a preliminary accident report in five days. The full investigation may take a year.

Yute Air offices in Bethel were closed yesterday and remain closed today. Yute Air serves the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, providing flights for passengers and freight to more than 20 surrounding villages as well as charters around the state.

Original story:

Searchers have found the wreckage of the Yute Air plane that’s been missing since Saturday morning. A team Sunday evening spotted the Cessna 207 in the Kwethluk River. Lt. Col. Candice Olmstead is with the Alaska National Guard.

“There was a Yute Air pilot flying a company aircraft helping with the search. He flew over what he believed was the wreckage about 40 miles southeast of Bethel in the Kwethluk River. Shortly after that a Civil Air Patrol flew over to confirm as a secondary source that it was the wreckage and they were able to confirm that it was indeed,” Olmstead said.

Crews on a jet boat and helicopter left early this morning to go to the scene, says Megan Peters, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers.

“We have our troopers as well as other agencies, including the National Transportation Safety Board, going to the site to look at the wreckage, to look at the circumstances, to hopefully recover the pilot,” said Peters.

The plane left Bethel at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday for a maintenance check and should have returned three hours later.

Yute Air offices in Bethel were closed yesterday and remain closed today. Yute Air serves the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, providing flights for passengers and freight to more than 20 surrounding villages as well as charters around the state.

 

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