Bill Michel 2010-08-01
3 dead as cargo plane crashes at Denali Park
Daily News staff and wire reports, August 2nd, 2010
C-123 cargo plane owned by Delta Junction company.
A large cargo plane crashed Sunday afternoon and burst into a deadly fireball that
sparked a small wildland fire at Denali National Park, officials said.
Park spokeswoman Kris Fister said late Sunday that all three people aboard were
killed. The Park Service is not releasing the names until families can be notified.
The plane was a Fairchild C-123 registered to All West Freight Inc. of Delta Junction,
the Park Service said.
The first responders got to the plane within minutes, but the wreckage was aflame,
"The plane pretty much disintegrated," she said.
The plane went down near the park's eastern edge at 3:15 p.m., about 200 yards north
of the only major road in the park and about a mile from the park headquarters.
It crashed into the south side of Mount Healy, Fister said.
"There were people on the road, buses, other vehicles. The plane coming in was witnessed
probably by numerous people," she said.
The fire remains active, she said. Crews will be on the scene through the night
dousing hot spots.
Despite some witness accounts, the plane is not military, she said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to arrive on scene Monday
Witness George Clare, of Las Vegas, said he saw the plane flying very low and slowly
while he was walking toward the visitor's center near the park entrance. He thought
the plane was going to land on a local airstrip, so he proceeded to the visitor's
center. Within minutes, people came running in and saying a plane had crashed.
He said the crash caused a column of smoke west of the visitor's center.
"It was a military khaki green kind of color," Clare said. "It was propeller-driven.
It was a fixed-wing aircraft, and it had kind of a flat underbelly."
Fister said the fire was initially about one-half acre and grew to about an acre
before it was contained. The Alaska Fire Service dispatched eight smoke jumpers
to the scene, said Doug Stockdale of the Alaska Fire Service. Park fire crews and
volunteer firefighters from the area also fought the blaze.
The park road remains open, but the Rock Creek and Roadside trails, which link the
park headquarters and the Denali Visitor Center, are in the area of the crash and
The crash happened just four days after a military cargo plane crashed at Elmendorf
Air Force Base in Anchorage, killing four people onboard.
Investigation begins into deadly Denali airplane crash
Anchorage Daily News / adn.com, Published: August 2nd, 2010
The National Park Service has identified the three people who died in the cargo
plane crash Sunday near the entrance of Denali National Park in Alaska.
Investigators have started their probe in determining why a large plane crashed.
No one on the ground was injured.
Park spokeswoman Kris Fister says the people aboard the Fairchild C-123 cargo plane
were Bill Michel, 61, of Delta Junction; John Eshleman, 52, of Wasilla; and Paul
Quartly, 66, of Wasilla.
Michel owned All West Freight Inc. and was the pilot, Fister said.
The identities were determined through interviews with people familiar with the
plane and the intended flight, Fister said.
Official identification of the bodies will be made by the State Medical Examiner
by forensic examination, the Park Service said.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA arrived
at the park Monday and have completed an aerial reconnaissance and preliminary ground
survey of the site.
The crash started a small wildfire covering 1 acre. Fister said hot shot fire crews
turned over jurisdiction to park personnel.
Rock Creek Trail, one of two closed by the crash, reopened Monday. The Roadside
Trail remains closed until the on-site investigation is done.
The park road is open, and the temporary flight restrictions over the crash site
have been lifted, the Park Service said.