Saturday, January 2, 2016

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, N540ME, Wright Air Service: Accident occurred January 02, 2016 near Anaktuvuk Pass Airport (PAKP), Alaska


NTSB Identification: ANC16LA012
Scheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Saturday, January 02, 2016 in Anaktuvuk Pass, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 208B, registration: N540ME
Injuries: 5 Serious, 3 Minor.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On January 2, 2016, about 1205 Alaska standard time, a Cessna 208B Caravan airplane, N540ME, sustained substantial damage after impacting terrain about 6 miles southwest of the Anaktuvuk Pass Airport, Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska. The airplane was being operated by Wright Air Service, Inc., Fairbanks, Alaska, as a visual flight rules (VFR) scheduled commuter flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. Of the eight people on board, the Airline Transport Pilot and four passengers sustained serious injuries, and three passengers sustained minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the Anaktuvuk Pass Airport at the time of the accident, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed from the Fairbanks Airport, Fairbanks, about 1030, destined for Anaktuvuk Pass. 

Two Federal Aviation Administration aviation safety inspectors from the Fairbanks Flight Standards District Office reached the accident site on the morning of January 3, 2016. The main wreckage was in an open area of snow-covered tundra, at an elevation of about 2,500 feet msl. The top of the ridge where the airplane impacted is at an approximate elevation of 3,000 feet msl. From the initial point of impact, the airplane traveled about 300 feet before coming to rest in an upright position. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and wings. A detailed wreckage examination is pending, following recovery of the airplane.

In an interview with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge, along with another NTSB investigator on January 6, 2015, in Anchorage, Alaska, the pilot stated that he was flying along the John's River about 2,500 feet msl, 500 feet above ground level (agl) while en route to Anaktuvuk Pass Airport (AKP). About 10 miles from the airport, he began to climb to airport traffic pattern altitude and maintain a flight track on the east side of the river valley to conduct a straight-in approach to runway 2 at AKP. Although some ice was present on the windshield, the deice/anti-ice equipment was operating as designed, and the windshield hot plate remained free of contamination. He stated that due to the overcast skies and snow covered ground, a flat light condition was present. 

The airplane was equipped with a Spidertracks flight tracking system, which provides real-time aircraft flight tracking data. The flight tracking information is transmitted via Iridium satellites to an internet based storage location, at 2-minute intervals. The airplane's last reported location was along the east side of the John's River valley, at an altitude of 2,560 feet msl, on a ground track of about 48 degrees.

Immediately following the accident, a passenger utilized a cellular phone to call for rescue from Anaktuvuk Pass residents. About 20 minutes after the call, the airplane was located and rescue personnel began extricating passengers and transporting them via snow machine to Anaktuvuk Pass for medical attention.

The accident airplane was not equipped, nor was it required to be equipped with a cockpit voice recorder (CVR), or a flight data recorder (FDR).

The closest weather reporting facility is Anaktuvuk Pass Airport, about 6 miles northeast of the accident site. At 1156, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) from the Anaktuvuk Pass Airport was reporting in part: Wind from 170 degrees at 5 knots; sky condition, broken clouds at 4,400 feet, overcast at 5,000 feet; visibility, 6 statute miles; temperature 19 degrees F, dewpoint 12 degrees F; altimeter, 29.03 inHg.

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Fairbanks FSDO-01

Maple Grove resident Jeff Hagen, front, tries to climb up to the plane wreckage while two other passengers look on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in the mountains of the central Brooks Range of Alaska, where the plane crashed earlier that day.

Jeff Hagen and seven others survived a plane crash on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in the mountains of the central Brooks Range of Alaska 

In the mountains of the central Brooks Range of Alaska, 250 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Jeff Hagen learned of the story. And the eerie similarities.

A local villager told Hagen about how, in 1976, a small plane had crashed right here, into the very same mountain, pretty much on the exact same spot. There were nine people aboard that plane, the local said. No one survived.

Hearing the story, Hagen knew just how fortunate he and seven others were to be alive.

The Maple Grove resident was aboard a Cessna 208 that crashed into that mountain Saturday while en route from Fairbanks to the tiny village of Anaktuvuk Pass in the Brooks Range, where Hagen is a special education teacher and girls basketball coach.

The pilot and all seven passengers -- educators and students at the school -- and a cocker spaniel also aboard all survived, although a few with significant injuries.

"You don't crash into a mountain and live," said Hagen, 50, who has a home with his wife in Maple Grove but is spending the school year teaching and coaching in Alaska.

But they did. All of them. And on Monday, still nursing sore ribs and other assorted bruises -- nothing was broken -- and taking prescription medications for the pain, Hagen tried to recount as best he could a New Year miracle.

Home in Minnesota for the holiday break, the native of the Red River Valley community of Kennedy started his trek back to Alaska on New Year's Day, flying from Minnesota to Chicago.

From there it was on to Seattle, then to Fairbanks, where he stayed Friday night.

The next morning, Hagen and two other teachers, two students and players on the girls basketball team and the school's principal and her husband and dog and the pilot boarded the 10-seat plane for the 250-mile flight to Anaktuvuk Pass.

For the first 240 miles or so, the trip was routine, Hagen said, the weather reportedly calm with good visibility. A relaxing ride up to that point -- about 10 miles out of Anaktuvuk Pass, Hagen said he was the only one who wasn't sleeping. And while it appeared the plane was flying a bit low, he didn't really think much of it.

"We were flying just fine," said Hagen, who was sitting at the front of the plane. "The windows were icing up, but I've seen that a lot. I think maybe the pilot was having a hard time seeing -- he was flying a little low. I looked back and everyone was sleeping. Everything was cool. The pilot didn't say anything. Then we veered a little right and banked around (the mountains). But I trusted the pilot."

That sense of safety and tranquility changed more quickly than Hagen ever could have imagined.

"Then, I heard "beep, beep, beep" coming from the dash of the plane, and all of a sudden we hit it (the mountain)," Hagen said. "Beep, beep, beep, boom.

"I watched the wing disintegrate into the mountain. And then we hit again, and again. I put my hand in front of my face. I don't know if I could have taken another hit. My life was flashing in front of me. I thought I was going to die. But I wasn't really nervous. It all happened so fast.

"I put my hand up to shield me from the blows. But I think we were going 180 miles an hour. I remember thinking that if I have to take one more shot ... and they were hard -- my head was hitting hard. My shoulder strap snapped. If I wasn't wearing my seat belt, we wouldn't be talking."

According to Hagen, the plane came to rest on only a slight incline.

"It wasn't like a cliff. We were about three-quarters the way up the mountain. It wasn't a huge mountain, but it was still the type you could fall off."

Amazingly, at that time, Hagen said he felt fine. Another teacher and the two students also seemed OK; the three other passengers at the back of the plane were hurt more severely, though, and were trapped in their seats by the wreckage, Hagen said.

The pilot appeared to get the worst of it -- Hagen figured both of the pilot's legs were badly broken. So Hagen and that other teacher pulled him from the mangled remains of the front of the plane and carried him outside, propping him up near the remaining wing. Still feeling no pain, or the effects of the Alaska cold, Hagen said he gave the pilot a heavy shirt that he found in his carry-on and his gloves and cap.

"I wasn't cold and wasn't feeling any pain," Hagen said. "It must have been adrenaline or shock."

But, at about that time, Hagen said he could hear the fuel dripping from the engine.

"I asked the pilot, 'Could the plane start on fire?' And he said, 'I don't think so.' "

Fortunately, it wouldn't.

While Hagen and the other teacher were attending to the pilot, the two students -- an eighth- and a ninth-grader, Hagen said -- climbed to the top of the mountain to see if they could get cell service to call for help. It took a while, and when they did get service, it was only for about 30 seconds, Hagen said, but long enough to get a call through to 911.

"They were amazing," Hagen said of the girls. "To jump out of a plane that had just crashed and climb up to the top of the mountain to get cell service. ... And the eighth-grader, the whole side of her face was messed up."

Hagen said the crash happened at exactly 1 p.m. local time. And, by 2:30, it already was starting to get dark, he said.

After they attended to the pilot and the other passengers the best they could, "Then we had to sit and wait. It was starting to get dark and I was starting to get worried because it was going to be getting real cold soon, too. Then the snowmobiles started coming. They had a hard time finding us. We were waving flashlights (to get their attention).

"That village, to come together like it did -- there's only about 350 people there -- was amazing. They took care of us."

But as rescuers continued to converge on the crash site, for Hagen, the adrenaline or shock or whatever it was that kept him going for the first few hours after the crash started to wear off, and in a hurry.

"It took two hours to get everyone out. Then I started to feel the pain," he said. "It felt like I had broken ribs on my right side. They had to put everyone in those toboggans and bring them down. It was terrible. You could hear the pain. People had broken bones, and they had to go over rocks (in the toboggans)."

The rescuers brought them -- the dog included -- down the mountain and to the clinic in Anaktuvuk Pass, and from there they were to be flown to either Fairbanks or another 130 miles farther to Anchorage, depending on the extent of their injuries, Hagen said.

But, understandably, he wasn't quite ready to get on another plane.

"One (of the emergency medical staffers) was from Maple Grove -- he lives about three miles from me. But I told him I'm not getting on a plane. I was feeling like I had played a football game," said Hagen, a wide receiver at Minot (N.D.) State University in the 1980s. "But he said, 'I'll take care of you.' So he gave me some meds and we talked about the Packers-Vikings game (upcoming Sunday night).

"They took me to the hospital in Anchorage and I had a CAT scan. I was healthy -- no broken bones. But I lost my glasses in the crash, so I was blind. I got a cheap pair of 'cheaters' at Walgreens so I could at least see something."

He's spending the week recovering in Anchorage with his wife, Kristy, who flew in from Minnesota after the ordeal.

As of Tuesday, there was no news of what might have caused the crash.

"I can't believe we're alive," Hagen said. "We shouldn't be. If the wing wouldn't have clipped the mountain, I don't think we would be. Who knows. I think that shot us off at an angle.

"I think that saved us."


ANCHORAGE –   A Cessna 208 plane crashed southwest of Anaktuvuk Pass Saturday afternoon, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

No fatalities have been reported, but NTSB spokesman Shawn Williams said all 8 passengers sustained “serious injuries” and before nightfall were transported to Anchorage-area hospitals for treatment.

The crash was reported just after 1 p.m. on Saturday, and rescue crews were dispatched to the scene to assist the victims, according to the NTSB.

The commuter flight was operated by Wright Air Service, and was headed from Fairbanks to Anaktuvuk Pass, according to WAS spokeswoman Kathleen Fagre. She said there were seven passengers aboard the plane, along with the pilot.

Krystal Rose survived Saturday’s crash with only a black eye and bumps on her head.
 – Courtesy Krystal Rose

One of the passengers who survived, 13-year-old Krystal Rose of Anaktuvuk Pass, said she and her friend, Courtney, 15, were on their way home following a vacation when the plane crashed.

“It was me and my best friend,” Rose wrote in a message to KTVA Monday. “We just got off of a vacation and we just wanted to go home and we didn’t expect the plane to crash. It was shocking, I blacked out and didn’t remember much.”

She described the commuter flight as “smooth” for most of the trip, but said “it started getting bad, the wind shield was icy and [we] could barely see.” She also explained that she was dozing off, in and out of sleep during part of the flight.

“I was in shock when we crashed. My best friend got out of the plane and I followed. I asked her if this was real and she said yes. I was crying and I didn’t know what to do,” wrote Rose. ”Within 10 minutes, SAR came and took us home. There was a lot of people at the fire department and I saw my mom and I barely ran to her and she was crying so bad I could barely hear anybody else.”

Rose was discharged from a hospital in Anchorage Monday morning and reported having a “black eye and 5 bumps” on her head, but is otherwise okay.

Winds were calm in the area of the crash, according to Williams. The Federal Aviation Administration was called to the scene to document and investigate the crash site before the plane is moved to a secure hangar for further evaluation, Williams said. He said the pilot had not been able to give a statement to the NTSB or FAA following the crash.

Anaktuvak Pass is located in the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve on the North Slope, northwest of Fairbanks.

Story, comments, video and photo gallery:

Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration are at the scene of a Saturday afternoon plane crash that seriously injured all eight people on board, the NTSB said. All occupants were transported to Anchorage hospitals following the crash.

NTSB investigator Shaun Williams said they will be speaking with each of the victims once they recover. Cessna, the aircraft manufacturer will also be included in the investigation, he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration will document the  the wreckage before the plane is transported to a secure hangar in the valley, NTSB said.

Williams was unable to comment on the patients' conditions as of Sunday morning.


A Wright Air Service commuter caravan has crashed near Anaktuvuk Pass Saturday afternoon, according to officials with National Transportation Safety Board and Wright Air Service. 

NTSB investigator Shaun Williams told Channel 2 News that the plane was flying from Fairbanks to Anaktuvuk Pass Saturday, when it went down just after 1 p.m. about six miles outside the town. 

Anaktuvuk Pass is located at a 2,200 elevation in the Brooks Range between the Anaktuvuk and John Rivers.

There were eight people on board the plane, including the pilot, according to Wright Air Service official Kathleen Fagre.

While there were no fatalities in the crash some injuries have been reported, Williams says. The number of people injured and their conditions are unknown at the time. 

Steven Evak, a local search and rescue volunteer says he was sleeping when a friend banged on his door. "One of my kids had opened it and he goes 'plane crash plane crash.' So when you hear plane crash you get up." 

"When planes go down no one lives. I'm surprised these people even lived... even in the mountains," Evak said. 

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All eight people on board a small plane that crashed near Anaktuvuk Pass Saturday afternoon survived but were seriously injured, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

NTSB investigator Shaun Williams said Sunday that the pilot and all seven passengers on board the Cessna 208 Caravan -- on a scheduled Wright Air Service flight from Fairbanks to Anaktuvuk Pass -- were hospitalized in Anchorage after the plane crashed near its destination Saturday afternoon. 

Officials with the air service said Saturday that the plane went down about 6 miles southwest of the Brooks Range village.

“It departed Fairbanks about 10:30 in the morning and the crash happened about 1 p.m.,” Williams said.

Alaska State Troopers spokesman Tim Despain said troopers didn’t immediately have further details on the crash Sunday morning.

Williams said a weather report from Anaktuvuk Pass at the time of the crash indicated calm winds and 6 miles of visibility, with a cloud ceiling at about 4,200 feet. The NTSB hadn’t received any word so far from the plane’s occupants about what happened.

“We’ve been busy trying to put together all the pieces and get the details,” Williams said Sunday. “Everyone has been taken to area hospitals in Anchorage, and we have not spoken with anyone yet.”

Investigators plan to retrieve the Cessna, Williams said, and bring it to a secure storage facility in the Mat-Su region for further examination.


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