Passengers survive, pilot dies after Wings plane crash near Juneau

Update | 6:25 p.m.

The Coast Guard and Juneau Mountain Rescue have recovered the body of pilot Fariah Peterson from the crash site, according to an Alaska State Troopers dispatch.

Peterson’s body was flown to Juneau and will be sent to the State Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Family and friends of plane crash survivor Ernestine Hanlon-Abel of Hoonah pray together at Bartlett Regional Hospital Friday night. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Family and friends of plane crash survivor Ernestine Hanlon-Abel of Hoonah pray together at Bartlett Regional Hospital Friday night. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Update | 3:40 p.m.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator is at the scene of the plane crash today, according to an Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman.

Investigator Chris Shaver is from the NTSB Alaska Regional Office in Anchorage. He arrived in Juneau on Friday, says NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss.

“We’re basically on scene in Juneau with one investigator. He’s coordinating with the commander in the Anchorage office,” Weiss says. “And we’re going to send some people up from our Transportation Disaster Assistance program to help with the survivors.”

Two staff members from the disaster assistance program are arriving in Juneau today from Washington, D.C., says Weiss.

The Coast Guard is helping transport the investigator as well as members of Juneau Mountain Rescue to the crash scene. Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen says the rescue crew is trying to recover the body of Wings pilot Fariah Peterson.

The four passengers involved in the plane crash all survived. Juneau’s Sandra Herrera Lopez and Hoonah’s Ernestine Hanlon-Abel were both medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They’re both in serious condition in the intensive care unit, says Harborview spokeswoman Barbara Clements.

Hanlon-Abel’s husband Tom Abel says Wings of Alaska parent company SeaPort Airlines is arranging travel to Harborview for himself and close family members.

The two other plane crash survivors Humberto Hernandez-Aponte of Juneau and Jose Vazquez of Puerto Rico are in stable condition at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Update | 2:40 p.m.

Wings of Alaska has cancelled all flights today “out of sensitivity to employees,” according to a company press release. Service is scheduled to resume tomorrow.

Wings pilot Fariah Peterson, 45, of Birmingham, Alabama, died yesterday after the Cessna 207 she was flying went down 18 miles west of Juneau Friday afternoon. All four passengers survived.

“All of us at Wings of Alaska and SeaPort Airlines are deeply saddened by the accident, and the confirmation of the loss of pilot Fariah Peterson,” said Rob McKinney, Wings President and CEO in the release. “We have lost a member of our work family, and our thoughts and prayers continue for everyone involved and touched by this tragedy.”

The Wings release says a counseling professional will be available in Juneau this afternoon after 2:00 p.m. to provide information and support to families and friends of those involved in the accident. For information on counseling services, friends and family can call the Wings assistance line at 407-362-0632.

The National Transportation Safety Board and other special assistance teams are investigating the accident.

Update | 12:10 p.m.

A plane crash survivor from Juneau and one from Hoonah were medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to a Saturday morning press release from Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Sandra Herrera Lopez of Juneau, listed in serious condition, along with Ernestine Hanlon-Abel of Hoonah, who was reported in critical condition, were transported to Seattle. Hanlon-Abel is now stable, says husband Tom Abel.

Humberto Hernandez-Aponte of Juneau and Jose Vazquez of Puerto Rico are in stable condition at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Original story

A Wings of Alaska pilot is dead after the plane she was flying went down 18 miles west of Juneau Friday afternoon. Flight 202 from Juneau to Hoonah crashed into a mountain north of Point Howard on the mainland around 1:20 p.m. The Cessna 207 was carrying four passengers, all of who survived.

The pilot was 45-year-old Fariah Peterson of Birmingham, Alabama, according to the Alaska State Troopers. Her family has been notified. The U.S. Coast Guard and Juneau Mountain Rescue will continue efforts to retrieve Peterson on Saturday.

The surviving passengers are Hoonah resident Ernestine Hanlon-Abel, 64, Juneau residents Humberto Hernandez-Aponte, 57, and wife, Sandra Herrera Lopez, 60, and Jose Vazquez, 15, of Puerto Rico. With a Jayhawk helicopter, the U.S. Coast Guard hoisted the passengers from the crash site and transported them to Juneau. They were all taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Irene Knudsen is Hanlon-Abel’s cousin.

“She’s pretty severe right now. She’s got a big gash on her head and it looks like she has a broken nose. She was in the front of the plane with the pilot,” Knudson says.

Hanlon-Abel, who is in critical condition, was in Juneau visiting her mother at the Wildflower Court nursing home. Friend Mary Tarr had dinner with Hanlon-Abel Thursday, the night before the crash. Tarr says Hanlon-Abel was supposed to leave Juneau Thursday night, but changed her flight to leave Friday afternoon.

Husband Tom Abel of Hoonah thanks the Coast Guard for saving his wife’s life.

“They, of course, did their usual good job and rescued my wife and for that I’m eternally grateful,” Abel says. He says his wife has several fractures and is being medevaced to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Bartlett Regional Hospital spokesman Jim Strader says another crash survivor in serious condition is also being medevaced. The other two passengers are in stable condition.

Flight 202 took off at 1:06 p.m. and was scheduled to land at 1:24 p.m. The Juneau Police Department received a 911 call from someone on the flight around 1:20 p.m. reporting the plane crash.

The Coast Guard launched an MH60 Jayhawk helicopter out of Air Station Sitka and sent the cutter Liberty to assist in the rescue. The Alaska State Troopers, Juneau Mountain Rescue and Temsco Helicopters were also involved in the search and rescue. The site of the crash was at 1,330 feet above sea level.

The weather near Point Howard had been similar to the weather in Juneau — low clouds, light rain and patchy fog, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Tom Ainsworth.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident and will fly to the crash scene Saturday, according to state Troopers. An NTSB representative was at Bartlett Regional Hospital Friday night.

Hoonah mayor Ken Skaflestad says the plane crash is devastating.

“We rely on air travel so much being from an island out here that it concerns us whenever we hear of plane crashes anywhere. This is very close to home and the whole town is curious and anxious to know more,” Skaflestad says.

Wings of Alaska operates scheduled flights to Gustavus, Haines, Hoonah and Skagway. The company is owned by SeaPort Airlines based in Portland, Oregon.

View KTOO’s live coverage of flight 202 here.

Editor’s note : July 18, 2015 8:00 a.m.: A previous version of this story listed one of the Juneau survivors as Humberto Herrera. His name is actually Humberto Hernandez-Aponte. The Alaska State Troopers dispatch for July 17, 2015 had listed the incorrect name. We apologize for the error. 

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