USA — National Guard, Coast Guard Rescue Plane Crash Victims

CAMP DENALI, Alas­ka — The Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard and the Coast Guard res­cued four peo­ple from a crash of a sin­gle-engine float plane 17-miles north of Dilling­ham, Alas­ka, the night of Aug. 9.

The plane, a de Hav­il­land Otter, was car­ry­ing for­mer U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and eight oth­ers when it crashed into a moun­tain­side en route to the Nusha­gak Riv­er for a fish­ing trip. Stevens was killed in the crash.

The Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard’s 210th, 211th and 212th Res­cue Squadrons were con­tact­ed and deployed to the scene, but were unable to make it to the crash site because of inclement weath­er. The sur­vivors spent the night at the wreck­age, but were assist­ed by four med­ical per­son­nel who were flown to the site by local heli­copter pilots before the weath­er made it impos­si­ble for Guard assets to get to the scene.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, the weath­er cleared enough for an Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk heli­copter car­ry­ing Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard parares­cue­men Senior Mas­ter Sgt. Jonathan Davis and Tech. Sgt. Kristofer Abel to the crash site to admin­is­ter med­ical assis­tance.

A Coast Guard C‑130 was pro­vid­ed over­head com­mu­ni­ca­tion sup­port and was avail­able to take vic­tims in need of fur­ther med­ical treat­ment to Anchor­age once they were trans­port­ed to Dilling­ham.

Poor weath­er remained a fac­tor, with less than a quar­ter-mile vis­i­bil­i­ty at the crash site and less than a 100-foot ceil­ing in the area, but the Alas­ka Nation­al Guard and Coast Guard were able to trans­port the four sur­vivors — Sean O’Keefe, Kevin O’Keefe, Jim Morhard and William “Willy” Phillips Jr. — to Dilling­ham.

The Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard arrived in Dilling­ham first, with two crit­i­cal patients onboard, and was met by med­ical per­son­nel from the Dilling­ham Hos­pi­tal.

The Coast Guard HH-60 Jay Hawk brought the two oth­er patients to Dilling­ham. Three of the sur­vivors were transloaded onto a Coast Guard C‑130 and brought to Anchor­age, while the fourth sur­vivor was brought to Anchor­age on a civil­ian air ambu­lance flight.

“I have tremen­dous respect for our ser­vice men and women, the emer­gency first respon­ders and their abil­i­ty to per­form hero­ical­ly in the most try­ing of times,” said Army Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, adju­tant gen­er­al of the Alas­ka Nation­al Guard. “The Alas­ka Nation­al Guard in a joint effort with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alas­ka Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safe­ty were extreme­ly resilient and pro­fes­sion­al in their efforts to res­cue the remain­ing sur­vivors of the plane crash and get­ting them to med­ical atten­tion as quick­ly as pos­si­ble.” The Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard and Coast Guard were cred­it­ed with four saves for this mis­sion.

Mean­while, the Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard is trans­port­ing the remain­ing two indi­vid­u­als involved in an Aug. 8 air­craft acci­dent on Knik Glac­i­er to Mat-Su Region­al Hos­pi­tal. Three oth­ers were evac­u­at­ed to a hos­pi­tal yes­ter­day.

Offi­cials at the 11th Res­cue Coor­di­na­tion Cen­ter said an Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk heli­copter was able to land on the glac­i­er and res­cue the final two plane crash vic­tims and the three Alas­ka Army Nation­al Guards­men who were involved in a Black Hawk heli­copter acci­dent dur­ing a res­cue effort yes­ter­day.

An Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard com­bat res­cue offi­cer and three Alas­ka Air Nation­al Guard parares­cue­men remain on the glac­i­er.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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