5 dead in Alaska commuter plane crash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska —Five people died in a plane crash southwest of Bethel on Thursday afternoon, Alaska State Troopers said.

The wreck of a Yute Commuter Service plane, headed to Kipnuk from Bethel, was located 12 miles southwest of Tuntutuliak around 1:50 p.m. according to an online release from the troopers. The plane had four passengers and one pilot aboard.

Kipnuk is about 100 miles southwest of Bethel. Tuntutuliak is about 40 miles southwest of Bethel, near the Kuskowkim River.

Rescuers from multiple agencies responded to the crash, said Candis Olmstead, the National Guard’s director of public affairs.

An Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was dispatched out of Bethel. Rescuers, including a trooper and two LifeMed Alaska medics, were on the scene at 4:15 p.m., Olmstead said.

According to preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane, a Piper PA-32, crashed under unknown circumstances, said Allen Kenitzer in the FAA’s Office of Communications. Kenitzer said that both the FAA and the National Transportation Board would investigate the crash.

Troopers said they are working to notifying the victims’ next of kin.

Yute is a commuter airline based in Bethel, according to the company’s website, and flies throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

In April of last year, a Yute charter flight on its way to Bethel from Aniak crashed and four people aboard the plane were uninjured, according to a troopers report. In November, a Yute pilot was uninjured after crashing in Goodnews Bay, about 115 miles south of Bethel, according to KYUK.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, the airline said all of their flights Friday were canceled. The airline said it had “no comment” about the incident by phone Friday morning.

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