JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A small plane operated by a Christian mission organization crashed on a frozen lake in southwest Alaska over the weekend, injuring all five people on board, authorities said. Area residents, some on snowmobiles, were among those who reached the crash site before other rescue teams to help care for the victims.
A pilot for the group SEND North and four passengers were in stable condition at Anchorage area hospitals, according to a statement dated Sunday and provided to the Associated Press on Monday by SEND North area director Jim Stamberg. The crash happened Saturday.
The organization describes itself as supporting and administering remote ministry activities in Alaska and parts of Canada.
“We praise God for His protection and mercy,” the statement said.
The Cessna 206 single-engine propellor plane was headed to the small community of Port Alsworth from the community of Levelock. It crashed on the frozen Lake Iliamna about 8 miles (12.9 kilometers) southwest of the community of Iliamna, said Austin McDaniel, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
Poor weather conditions and visibility between Anchorage and Iliamna and Kodiak and Iliamna initially hampered U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska Air National Guard crews from safely reaching the area to pick up and transport the victims, McDaniel said.
McDaniel said the Alaska Wildlife Troopers’ helicopter from King Salmon, locally operated aircraft and teams on snowmobiles from the Iliamna area reached the site more quickly and assessed and cared for the injured until the other rescue teams arrived.
McDaniel said without “the help from the local Alaskans in the area willing to lend a hand,” including a clinic, air carriers and volunteer search and rescue team members and area residents, “this could have had a different outcome.”
The Alaska State Troopers had described the five people on the flight as having sustained serious injuries. An update from the troopers on Sunday said one of the people was in serious condition, one was in fair condition and three were in stable condition.
McDaniel said the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. A message seeking comment was left for the head of the board’s Alaska division on Monday.