Alaska State Troopers have identified the pilots who died on the Hageland Cessna 208 Caravan as Derrick Cedars, 42 of Bethel and Greggory McGee, 46 of Anchorage. Cedars was Hageland’s lead pilot in Bethel. The pilots were not carrying passengers; they were on a training flight that went down about 30 miles southeast of Bethel, near Three Step Mountain in clear and calm weather. Jim Hickerson is President of Hageland Aviation.
“It’s a tough time for everyone in our company, a tough time for our family, and a tough time for our pilots, but our deepest condolences from everyone at Hageland go to our pilots’ family,” said Hickerson.
The crash happened at 3:56 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. After the plane was reported overdue, a pilot sent in a report of seeing burned wreckage. The Alaska Army National Guard in Bethel dispatched a Blackhawk helicopter with local fire personnel and Alaska State Troopers on board in an attempt to locate survivors more than three hours after the crash.
Chief Warrant Officer II Paul Jones is with the Army National Guard in Bethel and was on the mission Tuesday night.
“There was still a little bit of smoke, but there was no fire to extinguish at that point,” said Jones.
Troopers found a large debris field surrounded by charred willow bushes. The team was on site for two hours and planned to return to the scene Wednesday afternoon.
24 hours after the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board has sent out an investigator. Chris Shaver arrived in Bethel and was headed by helicopter to the crash site. He says the NTSB is in the earliest stages of investigation and does not know what caused the crash and a couple days of on scene work will hopefully provide some clues.
“We’ll look for the initial impact points, where the plane ended up coming to rest. Angles, measurements, and distances between those points can give a lot of clues to how fast the airplane was going what attitude it was at when it hit the ground,” said Shaver.
Hageland’s Jim Hickerson says the company is working with federal officials. They are providing investigators access to training records and documentation.
“We’ve spent many many hours since last night looking at it ourselves and we don’t have any information about what may have caused the accident,” said Hickerson.
Hickerson met with all the employees in Bethel and will speak with the pilots’ families. The company closed its doors Wednesday at the Bethel station.
“It’s a day of reflection, a day of remembrance with our staff. We plan to open our doors tomorrow,” said Hickerson.
The NTSB expects to publish a preliminary report in about five days. The full report could take six months or a year.
Hageland Aviation flies under the banner of Ravn Connect, a company operated by Ravn Alaska, formerly known as Era Alaska. Four people died in November when an Era Cessna 208 Caravan passenger flight crashed outside St. Mary’s. The exact cause of that crash has not been determined.