Two dead, four injured in small plane crash in Alaska

ANCHORAGE Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:20am EDT

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ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - Two people including the pilot and a teacher were killed and four others injured in a small plane crash near Alaska's Lower Yukon Valley that had rescuers searching for more than 14 hours, authorities said.

The four survivors were rescued from the wreckage of the Cessna 207 aircraft on Sunday morning in a mountainous area about 150 miles west of Anchorage, said Beth Ipsen, a spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers.

"The survivors were transported to a hospital in Anchorage where they are receiving treatment for their injuries ... Hopefully they'll be okay," Ipsen told Reuters.

The survivors were being treated at Providence Alaska Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries.

Killed in the crash were pilot Ernest Chase, 66, of Aniak and Julia Walker, 52, of Anvik, the Alaska State Troopers said.

The flight had been originally from McGrath to Anvik, but Chase apparently opted to try to return to McGrath.

He was apparently trying to turn around to go back to McGrath when the plane, a Cessna 207, struck the side of a mountain, the troopers said.

The passengers included all three teachers assigned to the school in Anvik, an Athabascan village, Karen Ladegard, superintendent for the Iditarod School District that includes Anvik, told the Anchorage Daily News.

Survivors Rosemarie and Don Evans, both 32, were the first-year teachers in Anvik, where there is one small school, but Walker was a veteran teacher there, trooper spokeswoman Ipsen said. The Evans' children, Donnie, 10, and McKenzie, 8, were the other crash survivors.

Troopers got an emergency call from Inland Aviation, the private company that owns the plane, on Saturday night, Ipsen said.

But rescuers could not reach the crash site until Sunday morning due to bad weather. Attempts were made to reach the site overnight by the Alaska National Guard, Inland and commercial planes.

The National Weather Service said the temperatures in McGrath overnight hovered around the upper 50s.

An Alaska National Guard helicopter finally reached the site on Sunday, Ipsen said.

It is believed weather and terrain were factors in the crash, the state troopers said, but the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating.

(Writing by Karen Brooks; Editing by Peter Bohan and Jerry Norton)

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