ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A big cargo airplane that crashed Sunday in Denali National Park was registered to an Alaskan freight company and had three people onboard who are presumed dead, the National Park Service said.
The Fairchild C-123 was registered to All West Freight Inc. of Delta Junction, Alaska. It crashed into the south-facing slope of Mount Healy within a mile of the park headquarters and about 200 yards north of the only road into the park. The craft went down about 3 p.m. Sunday near the eastern edge of the park, about 180 miles north of Anchorage.
The plane burst into flames on impact and started a wildland fire that was contained at approximately one acre, the park service said.
Park spokeswoman Kris Fister said it was initially difficult to determine the number of fatalities because “the plane pretty much disintegrated.”
Names of those killed weren’t yet released.
The fire was challenging for crews on the scene, who did not know who owned the plane until several hours after the crash. The first responders arrived within minutes, but the plane already was engulfed in flames, Ms. Fister said.
George Clare of Las Vegas said he saw the plane flying very low and slowly while he was walking toward the visitors center near the park entrance. He thought the plane was going to land on a local airstrip, so he proceeded to the visitor’s center. Within minutes, people came running in and saying a plane had crashed.
He said the crash caused a column of smoke a few miles west of the visitors center.
Alaska Fire Service smokejumpers and Denali wildland firefighters were dousing hot spots to extinguish the fire late Sunday and stayed on the scene overnight. National Transportation Safety Board investigators were to arrive Monday morning.
The crash happened just four days after a military cargo plane crashed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, killing four people onboard.
The victims were Maj. Michael Freyholtz, 34, of Hines, Minn.; Maj. Aaron Malone, 36, of Anchorage; Capt. Jeffrey Hill, 31, of York, Pa.; and Master Sgt. Thomas Cicardo, 47, of Anchorage. Sgt. Cicardo was posthumously promoted to senior master sergeant Friday.
The four airmen were on a training mission Wednesday evening for a weekend air show at the Air Force base, which wrapped up Sunday. The C-17 crashed about a minute after taking off.