Debris found; Alaska lake searched for plane with 4 aboard


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The search of an Alaska lake was resuming early Friday after debris believed to be from a small plane carrying four people was found in the water, near where the aircraft took off from, an official said.

Searchers in a boat found the debris on Lake Clark Thursday afternoon, National Park Service spokesman John Quinley said,

He said the items are believed to belong to the occupants of the Piper PA-28 Cherokee, which took off from Port Alsworth Wednesday. The community is situated on the banks of the 50-mile-long lake.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Quinley didn’t describe the type of debris, but he said no wreckage of the aircraft had been found.

He said he had no new information on the status of the missing occupants.

Crews early Friday were to resume their search of the site, situated in Lake Clark National Park and to the northeast of Port Alsworth, Quinley said.

He said that the families of the missing have been notified of the discovery.

Earlier Thursday, Nate Sobie, manager of the True North Aviation flight school in Port Alsworth who rented the plane to the party, declined to identify those on board. Sobie said he has been assisting in the search.

“The one comment I would have is, just let me ask everyone for prayers at this time as we search for the missing people and that they can return safely home,” he said.

The plane left Port Alsworth about 10 a.m. Wednesday and was due around noon in Anchorage 170 miles to the northeast.

Responders say the search has been hampered by fog and darkness at Lake Clark Pass, a narrow river valley believed to be part of the aircraft’s flight path.

The plane is owned by Glen Alsworth Sr. and his family, but it’s on loan to the aviation business. Alsworth said the community of about 200 was named after his family, adding that his father homesteaded there in 1944.

Responders also have not released the names of the people on board.

Searchers found no indication of any emergency locator beacon being activated in the area, Alaska Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Eagerton said.

Night was falling when the search was launched late Wednesday with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and two C-130 transport planes, he said.

Beside the darkness, searchers ran into fog at Lake Clark Pass.

“Imagine you’re flying in a valley between mountains that are covered in snow and then it’s foggy,” he said. “Eventually, you lose the ability to know how close you are to things. It makes it dangerous to fly in those conditions to get low enough.”

In a separate incident in Alaska, former Republican state Rep. Mike Kelly of Fairbanks was killed Wednesday in a plane crash in the airplane-reliant state.

Kelly’s wife, Cherie Kelly, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that her husband’s body would be flown to Anchorage before being returned to Fairbanks.

Mike Kelly, 74, was the only person on board the private plane, which crashed 17 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

Kelly, who served in the state Legislature from 2004 to 2010, was the brother of state Sen. Pete Kelly of Fairbanks.

Officials of both the state House and Senate issued statement honoring Mike Kelly and his work in the Legislature. On Thursday, Gov. Bill Walker ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of Kelly.


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