ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Thick clouds hampered searchers trying to find a sightseeing plane carrying Polish tourists a day and a half after it crashed on a mountain ridge in Alaska’s Denali National Park, but they took to the sky to try again Monday.
The low-lying clouds and rainy conditions also prevented crews from spotting the wreckage Sunday. A National Park Service high-altitude helicopter and Air National Guard aircraft set out to reach the five people aboard the plane that went down Saturday evening.
The pilot reported by satellite phone that passengers suffered injuries but could give no details before the satellite connection dropped. The park service said the four passengers are from Poland, but none of the names of those aboard have been released.
The de Havilland Beaver aircraft operated by K2 Aviation carried emergency gear that included sleeping bags, a stove, a pot, food and first-aid kit. It had taken off for a tour of Kahiltna Glacier, the starting point for most ascents of Denali, North America’s tallest mountain.
It crashed about 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) southwest of Denali near the top of 10,900-foot (3,300-meter) Thunder Mountain, which overlooks the glacier and is described by the park service as more of a ridge than a mountain.
The agency says the terrain near the crash site is “extremely steep and a mix of near-vertical rock, ice and snow.”
Sightseeing flights routinely land on Kahiltna Glacier, allowing visitors to walk on the ice field and see where climbers make final preparations before ascending Denali.
An Army Chinook helicopter from Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks also planned to bring a ground crew Monday that could be inserted into a glacier staging area to assist with rescue operations.
The plane’s ELT beacon sounded an alert around 6 p.m. Saturday that the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center picked up.