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Remains of pilot recovered after fatal plane crash near Cordova

Elyssa Loughlin

Rescuers on Tuesday recovered the body of a pilot who died in a plane crash Sunday afternoon west of Cordova, Alaska State Troopers said.

The Piper PA-32 took off from Yakutat and crashed into mountainous terrain roughly 5 miles west of Cordova around 2:30 p.m., said Clint Johnson, chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska office. The plane had been headed to Birchwood, he said.

The plane was owned by Nunak Air Taxi, which operates as Friendship Air. The Bethel-based company operates charter flights, according to its Facebook page. The company announced on Tuesday that it will close in the wake of the crash.

Authorities had not publicly identified the pilot as of Wednesday afternoon.

Federal Aviation Administration flight service officials initiated a search after they lost contact with the pilot near the Cordova Mudhole Smith Airport, troopers said.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew spotted the wreckage on a steep portion of Heney Ridge on Sunday evening and observed no signs of life, troopers said. Rescuers were unable to reach the wreckage because of weather conditions.

On Monday, troopers said a helicopter dispatched by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center reached the site and the crew confirmed the pilot had died but were unable to recover the body that day.

An Army National Guard search team recovered the pilot’s body Tuesday, troopers said. His remains were flown to Cordova. The pilot’s family was notified of the recovery, they said.

A spokesman for the troopers said Wednesday that the pilot will be publicly identified once the state medical examiner makes a positive identification.

The NTSB is investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash, Johnson said. They are working with the Army National Guard to determine if an investigator will be able to reach the wreckage, he said.