Pilot dead, passenger survives after North Slope charter plane crash

Teshekpuk Lake. (Bureau of Land Management photo)

The pilot of a charter plane is dead after crashing near Teshekpuk Lake southeast of Utqiagvik Thursday night. 

The North Slope Borough Search and Rescue Department received a distress signal between 9 p.m. and midnight, said spokesman DJ Fauske. Fauske said pilot Jim Webster of Fairbanks charter company Webster’s Flying Service died in the crash.

Fauske said rescuers found one passenger alive: Ben Jones, a researcher with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Northern Engineering. A rescue helicopter brought Jones to Utqiagvik. 

“Ben is recovering in Utqiagvik at our hospital there, with multiple fractures,” Fauske said. “[He’s] expected to recover, but obviously severely injured.”

Fauske said Jones and Webster were the only two on the plane. 

Fauske said the National Transportation Safety Board is coordinating an investigation into the crash with the North Slope Borough. Flying conditions were very bad and foggy when the distress beacon was received. 

Fauske says it was important that Webster had a special international beacon that was compatible with the borough’s search and rescue equipment. 

“They were able to locate them because of that device,” Fauske said. “Without that device, it was still bright out since it’s that time of year, but it would be very difficult.”

North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower thanked search and rescue for recovering Jones, and he sent prayers to Webster’s family.

Wesley Early covers Anchorage life and city politics for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org and follow him on X at @wesley_early. Read more about Wesley here.

Previous articleLISTEN: Small businesses employ just over half of all Alaskans. How are they fairing as they wait for CARES act funding?
Next articleLISTEN: A psychologist joins us to discuss the keys to healthy aging