No survivors found after plane crashes near Fairbanks with 2 aboard, troopers say

a plane crash site
An aerial photo of the plane crash site along the Tanana River near Fairbanks on Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (Alaska State Troopers)

Alaska State Troopers say no survivors have been found after a large cargo plane crashed near Fairbanks Tuesday with two people aboard.

The Douglas DC-4 plane crashed along the Tanana River, shortly after taking off from Fairbanks International Airport around 10 a.m., according to a report from troopers.

“The aircraft slid into a steep hill on the bank of the river where it caught fire,” the report said. “No survivors have been located.” 

Numerous agencies responded to the scene including troopers, police and local fire departments.

Authorities have not yet named the two people aboard the plane. 

Clint Johnson, with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the cause of the crash remains under investigation. Several details of the flight, including the plane’s operator, are also still being determined.

“At this point right now, we don’t know where the airplane was headed to,” Johnson said. “We’re assuming that there was a load of fuel onboard. We don’t know that for sure, but there was a significant post-crash fire.”

fire hose in the woods
Fire hoses at the scene of a plane crash near Fairbanks on Tuesday. (Robyne/KUAC)

The Division of Forestry did not initially have an estimate on the size of the fire that was burning in a heavily forested area along the riverbank. But a Forestry spokesperson said it was reported under control by mid-afternoon.

Mike Emers, owner of the Rosie Creek Farm across the Tanana from Fairbanks, said he saw the plane go down Tuesday morning. He was at the farm when he heard an explosion and looked out of a window.

“And right over the farm field, there was a four-engine plane – one of the engines was on fire,” Emers said. “Probably 10 seconds later, there was a big explosion that rocked the ground. And then explosions happened after that.”

a man walks near trucks
Mike Emers, owner of the Rosie Creek Farm across the Tanana from Fairbanks, said he saw the plane go down and called troopers. (Robyne/KUAC)

Emers said he used a ranch hand’s phone to try to call 911 but couldn’t get through. Then, he called troopers. After that, he and his son approached the crash site, at the base of a hillside near the river.

“There was a large flame right at the base of the hill,” he said. “There was debris all the way up the hill, maybe 100, 150 feet. Everything was torched there. The forest was on fire.”

According to Emers, troopers and other responders soon reached the scene by all-terrain vehicle and helicopter.

A video from near the crash site, taken by Emers, shows smoke and sporadic patches of flames rising from the hillside.

a plane crash site
Smoke rises from the site of the plane crash along the Tanana River near Fairbanks. (Courtesy Mike Emers)

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Editor’s note: KUAC reporter Tim Ellis contributed to this story.

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

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