The four Alaska Department of Forestry (DOF) employees that were in the aircraft that crashed near Aniak, Alaska May 28 were transported to medical facilities in Anchorage, about 320 miles east of Aniak. In a May 29 update the DOF said their injuries were serious but not life-threatening. The plane was transporting emergency firefighters from two western Alaska villages to Soldotna to support initial attack wildfire responses for the Kenai/Kodiak Area Forestry station.
Shortly after takeoff the twin-engine Aero Commander 500 Shrike crashed into a water-filled gravel pit about 2.5 miles west of the northwest end of the runway.
Among the first at the scene were three teenagers (who were later joined by a fourth), ranging in age from 13 to approximately 19, that were driving past the area and saw the aircraft in the water, but did not see or hear it crash.
As they drove closer and parked they saw two people exiting the aircraft.
Three of the four teens waded into the water that Dylan Nicholson, 13, told us over the phone was chest-high on his five-foot tall body. The water was shallow enough that the plane was resting on the bottom of the pond. While standing in the water that Dylan said was “very cold”, they worked to remove the remaining two people from the damaged plane. They could not get the door open at first, so they broke out a window to help extricate the last two individuals; eventually they were able to force the door open. The teens called emergency services for help and others arrived to assist. Some of the rescuers were in the water for about half an hour, according to one report.
At least one of the patients was taken to a clinic in the teen’s truck. Others that were more seriously injured were moved to the shore in a boat and then transported by ambulance to the clinic. Later they were all flown to Anchorage.
Dylan and his mom Mary Turner said the other three teens that were among the first to arrive at the scene were Trevor Morgan, Arthur Simeon, and Mason Dallnann. Others (and we are probably missing some) included Skye Morgan, Dakota Phillips, and Billy Turner (their ages unknown).
The rescuers and their families sent us these photos:
Congratulations to these young people and the others that helped rescue the four victims of the crash. And we hope the four that were injured recover quickly.