|Monday, Aug 23, 2010|
A major search is underway for a missing aircraft with four people on board that has been missing since Saturday afternoon. The single engine floatplane, a DeHavilland Beaver operated by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon, carried the pilot and three National Park Service maintenance employees – Mason McLeod, 26, and brothers Neal Spradlin, 28, and Seth Spradlin, 20. The name of the pilot is not being released pending the notification of his family. Two planes owned by the air service flew to Swikshak Lagoon early on Saturday afternoon and picked up the maintenance crew that had been working there, preparing for the reconstruction of an old ranger station. The Beaver left at 1:45 p.m.; the second plane, with two people on board, left 15 minutes later. The second plane arrived in King Salmon in an hour, but the pilot had to fly much of the way 500 feet above the ground due to deteriorating weather conditions. The Beaver never arrived, and no radio or emergency locator transmitter transmissions were received. An emergency response was launched by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at Elmendorf AFB near Anchorage. A C-130 from Anchorage and a Coast Guard helicopter searched the area until 11 p.m. Saturday, but found nothing. Search efforts yesterday afternoon and evening focused on a wide and rugged area between King Salmon and the park’s Pacific coast, particularly in several river valleys that drain into Kamishak Bay on the park’s northern boundary. The expectation was that the plane would have flown up one of the valleys, then along Kulik Lake west toward King Salmon. Six airplanes searched through the afternoon and evening, including two each from the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska State Troopers. Two helicopters from Egli Air Haul in King Salmon also joined the search. Local businesses, private lodges, and floatplane operators have been extremely generous in providing assistance in multiple ways, including the provision of services and personnel to aid in the search effort.