Pilot’s body recovered after plane crash near Cordova

(Creative Commons photo by Matt’ Johnson)
(Creative Commons photo by Matt Johnson)

The body of the air taxi pilot killed in a Sunday plane crash west of Cordova has been recovered, but investigators have yet to reach the crash site.

The Piper PA-32 Cherokee was operated by Friendship Air.

An Alaska State Troopers spokesman said Wednesday that the pilot has not yet been publicly identified, pending a positive identification, but family have been notified.

The crash was reported in the Heney Range, about five miles west of Cordova, at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter sent from Kodiak that night found no signs of life in cliff-like terrain but couldn’t lower anyone to the plane due to poor weather.

Troopers said a search team sent Monday was able to confirm the pilot’s death. The pilot was the only person onboard the plane. An Alaska Army National Guard helicopter crew was able to reach the crash site Tuesday and recover the pilot’s remains, which are being sent to the state medical examiner’s office.

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska chief, said that the flight had originated in Yakutat and was ultimately headed for Birchwood, just north of Anchorage. What caused the crash remains under investigation. Plans to examine or recover the plane are being slowed by terrain at the crash site, Johnson said.

“Very steep conditions,” he said. “My understanding was they did need crampons and ice axes to be able to get around the area, it’s very steep. So we’re trying to formulate a plan, see how we can do this safely.”

A Tuesday post on Friendship Air’s Facebook page said the air charter business was set to shut down following the crash.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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