5 dead after commuter plane crashes near Tuntutuliak

Tuntutuliak on April 3, 2019. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Five people are dead following a plane crash near the Lower Kuskokwim community of Tuntutuliak on Thursday, according to Alaska State Troopers.

At 1:42 p.m. Thursday, the troopers were alerted to an overdue Yute Commuter Service plane traveling from Bethel to Kipnuk carrying one pilot and four passengers. At 1:50 p.m., troopers reported that the plane was found crashed 12 miles southwest of Tuntutuliak.

An Alaska Army National Guard helicopter was dispatched from Bethel to the crash site, carrying multiple Guardsmen, an Alaska State Trooper and two medics with LifeMed, according to Alaska National Guard Public Affairs Director Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead.

The responders confirmed that all aboard were dead.

Alaska State Troopers are working to notify the families of the deceased.

Tuntutuliak Tribal Administrator Deanna White said that searchers from her community also headed to the crash site Thursday afternoon after hearing news of the accident.

The Yute Commuter Service plane was a Piper PA-32, according to Allen Kenitzer with the Federal Aviation Administration. He said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

On Thursday morning, Yute Commuter Service posted to their Facebook page, “Morning flights are all on hold due to low ceiling in Bethel.” Around 3 p.m. that afternoon, Yute posted to its Facebook page that all flights on Feb. 7 were canceled.

When KYUK called the airline at 3:16 p.m. to confirm if one of their planes had crashed, the person who answered said, “We have no comment at this time,” and hung up the phone.

Yute Commuter Service had two planes crash in 2019. One plane crashed in April near Bethel; the four people on board, including the pilot, walked away with no injuries. In November, a Yute pilot crashed in Goodnews Bay and escaped with no injuries; he was the only person on board.

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