Wrangell-St. Elias Rangers & Troopers Call Off Recovery Effort After Plane Crash In The National Park

  Update on Aircraft Recovery Wrangell-St. Elias National Park  PARK PRESS RELEASE  SEPTEMBER 13, 2023   COPPER CENTER, AK—Wrangell St. Elia...

 



Update on Aircraft Recovery Wrangell-St. Elias National Park 



PARK PRESS RELEASE 
SEPTEMBER 13, 2023  


COPPER CENTER, AK—Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve rangers, working closely with Alaska State Troopers and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), have called off recovery efforts for the pilot, passenger, and plane of the Beech B-36TC that crashed on Aug. 27 on Mt. Leeper, a remote and mountainous area in the southwest portion of the park near its boundary with Canada.

A reconnaissance mission flown on Sept. 5 showed that the plane came to rest in a highly crevassed area on the Yahtse Glacier that continually accumulates snow, making the wreckage permanently inaccessible.

The aircraft was piloted by 59-year-old Clayton McMartin and 58-year-old Melissa McMartin from Roanoke, Texas and was enroute from Glennallen, AK to Ketchikan, AK when it lost communication with air traffic control. An initial reconnaissance of the crash site was conducted on Aug. 28 by a US Coast Guard HC-130 out of Kodiak. Poor weather conditions prevented further rescue efforts in the following days. On Sept. 5, a brief weather window allowed a National Park Service ranger using a fixed-wing aircraft to analyze the crash site from the air. Weather conditions prevented further access the rest of the week.

The NTSB, State Troopers, and National Park Service high mountain rescue rangers evaluated the Sept. 5 crash site photos and decided not to attempt a risky on-the-ground recovery mission in this remote and heavily crevassed area. “All realistic possibilities of recovery have been exhausted,” said Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve Superintendent Ben Bobowski. “The extreme terrain and challenging weather conditions would create an unsafe situation for rescuers. Our hearts go out to family members of the deceased.”


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