In the rugged terrain of Alaska’s Denali National Park, a two-seater plane crashed on Wednesday, leaving two men presumed dead. The wreckage and the bodies remain at the base of a steep ravine, with officials deeming a recovery operation too hazardous to undertake.
The decision came after an inter-agency review involving the National Park Service (NPS), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Alaska State Troopers, and the Alaska Air National Guard Rescue Coordination Center (AKRCC). The spokesperson for the National Park Service stated that any potential recovery would necessitate a complex and high-risk ground operation. Further investigation of the crash site by Denali mountaineering rangers is planned for the coming days, weather permitting.
The crash site, located at the bottom of a narrow ravine, was discovered on Thursday morning after the AKRCC received a report of a missing plane. The search and rescue mission had been cut short due to weather conditions. Upon discovery, the search crew was unable to land at the site due to the steep terrain. The NPS stated that the chances of surviving such a crash were slim.
Later that day, two Denali National Park mountaineering rangers returned to the site, hoping to use a helicopter equipped with a short-haul line. However, the ravine proved too narrow for the helicopter’s rotor. The 460-foot line would have necessitated the helicopter to descend too low. The ravine’s sides, covered in loose rock, and the need to tow the wreckage for miles to find an accessible shoreline along the fast-flowing Yentna River further complicated the recovery efforts.
The NTSB deployed a drone to explore safer collection methods, but none have been identified so far. A hunter, who was waiting for the plane to pick him up, used an emergency satellite communicator to call the Alaska State Troopers for rescue. He informed the troopers that the pilot, 45-year-old Jason Tucker, was supposed to drop his hunting partner, 44-year-old Nicolas Blace, near the preserve’s border and then return to pick him up, which never occurred. The cause of the crash is yet to be determined.