Four people were injured when a small charter plane crashed during an emergency landing at the remote Dry Bay airstrip after reporting an unknown incident during flight. The crash, which occurred about 30 miles southeast of Yakutat, was first reported to the Alaska State Troopers at about 2:30 pm local time on Tuesday, May 25. The U.S. Coast Guard also reported that it picked up an emergency transmitter from the plane at about 3:15 pm.
The Yakutat Police Department and Coast Guard both activated emergency response operations. A Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter was first on scene to medevac two individuals with critical back injuries to Yakutat. The Yakutat Police medevaced a third person with serious breathing issues while the fourth person was transported to Yakutat by a good Samaritan. The Coast Guard then flew the three most seriously injured individuals to Anchorage on an HC-130 Hercules for further treatment. The identity of the pilot and passengers has not been released. Fortunately, reports indicate that none of the injuries are life-threatening.
The charter plane was a single-engine deHavilland Otter operated by Yakutat Coastal Airlines. The crash occurred during the plane’s final approach to the airstrip, though the exact cause of the crash remains unknown. According to a spokesperson, the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
Plane Crashes in Alaska
Unfortunately, Small plane crashes are an all too common occurrence in Alaska. Many residents rely on commuter planes operated by local carriers for transportation between remote communities off the road system. Visitors to Alaska also frequently participate in flight seeing tours, particularly during the busy summer tourist season. Recent plane crashes in Alaska include a July 2020 mid-air collision near Soldotna of a six-passenger DHC-2 Beaver with Piper PA-12 with one occupant in which all seven individuals dies; a May 2019 mid-air collision over George Inlet of two flight seeing planes – another Beaver and a DHC-3 Otter – in which five individuals died and 10 were injured; an October 2019 incident in Dutch Harbor in which a Ravn Air commercial flight slid off the runway during landing, killing one passenger; and the January 2019 crash of a Guardian Flight air ambulance plane near Kake resulting in the death of all three crew.
Alaska can be a particularly dangerous place to fly due to frequent adverse weather, difficult terrain, and remote locations without easy access to rescue services in the event of an emergency. Terrain and weather can be especially problematic in Southeast Alaska which has several heavily forested mountains that are often shrouded in fog and mist. Other causes of plane crashes include pilot air and mechanical failures.
Unfortunately, small plane crashes in remote locations typically involve serious injuries or fatalities. Small planes themselves may offer less protection to occupants in the event of a crash than larger commercial aircraft. When crashes occur in remote or difficult to access locations, extended response times can delay treatment for injuries, resulting in worse outcomes. Fortunately, however, Alaska is home to many highly-trained rescue resources including the Coast Guard, State Troopers, Alaska Air National Guard, and local emergency services.
Individuals injured in a plane crash should consider contacting an attorney to safeguard their rights and interests. An attorney can help ensure that injured individuals or the families of decedents can access appropriate medical care or funeral services, work with the plane operators or owners and their insurance companies regarding claims, investigate the causes of a plane crash, and, when necessary, file a lawsuit for compensation from liable parties.