ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Five people are dead after a commuter aircraft crashed near Tuntutuliak in Southwest Alaska.
Alaska State Troopers say the Yute Commuter plane, traveling from Bethel to Kipnuk, was reported missing at 1:45 p.m. Thursday. Four passengers and a pilot were on board.
The plane was found within minutes, according to officials, in a location about 12 miles south of Tuntutuliak. All five people on board were confirmed deceased, AST said.
Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead with the Alaska National Guard said a Blackhawk Helicopter with AK Army National Guard arrived to the scene south of Bethel, near Tuntutuliak, at about 4 p.m. and returned to Bethel within the hour.
AST Spokesperson Tim DeSpain added Thursday evening that conditions in and around the crash site may make it especially difficult for an investigative and rescue or recovery effort to be executed, particularly with the rural nature of the crash location.
"It was relatively quick that the site was located," DeSpain said, "but the challenges can definitely come in with the difficulty of getting to the site and actually having boots on the ground."
DeSpain said attempts will be made Friday to get back into the site, weather permitting, and will likely include Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and the Bethel Fire Department. Alaska's National Transportation Safety Board chief, Clint Johnson, said an investigator was en route to the site as of Thursday, though he could not say whether or not that individual had already made it to Bethel.
When contacted by phone for a request for comment, a Yute Commuter representative simply said, "No comment." The company's Facebook page administrator posted a note around 3:30 p.m. that all flights for Friday, Feb. 7, had been cancelled, following a prior post stating that Thursday morning flights had been put on hold because of a low ceiling in Bethel.
Authorities are also working to notify the families of the victims and officials say their names cannot be released until that procedure is considered complete.
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