The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash that killed three people near Cantwell Friday. The twin-engine Beechcraft Baron airplane crashed near mile 195 of the Parks Highway. According to the Alaska State Troopers the plane went down approximately 500 feet from the road, and left a debris trail 500 to 700 feet long. The Division of Forestry initially investigated the crash site as a potential wildfire, and Forestry and Cantwell volunteer firefighters responded to extinguish the wreckage.
The remains of the three people on board have been identified as pilot Dale Hemman of Washington, and John Ellenberg and Laurie Buckner, both of South Carolina. Hemman was the Director of Operations for Let’s Fly Alaska, a company that offers visitors the opportunity to fly their own aircraft from Washington through Alaska and western Canada. His aircraft was flying ahead of one of the guided groups. The flight began in Fairbanks and was bound for Homer. According to the Let’s Fly Alaska website, Hemman had experience as both a military and civilian aviator and instructor, and had “many years of flying the Alaska bush.” Let’s Fly Alaska has been in operation since 1992, and they claim to have guided over 2000 visitors in that time.
Clint Johnson, Chief of the Alaska branch of the NTSB says that there are other companies that offer similar services. Johnson also says that he expects the preliminary NTSB report to be available on Wednesday. No cause for the crash is currently known.