A pair of small aircraft crashes have claimed the lives of three Valley men and left another injured.
Alaska State Troopers Friday afternoon identified the victims of a fatal Thursday plane crash as Adam Norton, 30, and Derrik Swanson, 31, both of Palmer. Later Friday evening, Big Lake pilot Scott Mueller, 58, was killed and passenger Traiger Anderson, 30, of Wasilla, suffered minor injuries when their Piper PA-18 Super Cub crashed and burned on takeoff from an airstrip near Tatitna at Rainy Pass.
“They had just taken off,” Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said of Friday’s crash.
Mueller and Anderson, who are uncle and nephew, were part of a larger hunting party in two planes, Ipsen said. Only their plane was involved in the crash.
“There were people in the same group in two different planes,” she said. “I don’t know how close they were to each other.”
After the crash, Anderson was able to escape the aircraft and locate help.
“He managed to get out and run to the airstrip and contact other people who happened to have a (satellite) phone, and they called for help,” Ipsen said.
Because of poor weather conditions, troopers couldn’t respond to the scene near McGrath until late Saturday afternoon, Ipsen said.
Thursday’s crash also involved a pilot and passenger with a familial relationship. Norton, who Ipsen identified as the pilot, and Swanson reportedly were brothers-in-law, she said.
In that incident, their aircraft, a 1966 American Champion Citabria, was flying in the Knik Lake area — south of Wasilla off of Knik-Goose Bay Road — but was supposed to have returned home by 7 p.m. It was reported overdue at 9:45 p.m., and the wreckage of the plane was located early Friday about 10 miles north of Sutton, Alaska State Troopers report.
After receiving an emergency transponder signal, an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft searching for the missing plane found it at a little before 4 a.m. From there, troopers worked to recovered Norton’s and Swanson’s remains, which they eventually did by about 1:20 p.m. Efforts were slow, troopers report, due to the terrain, weather and the “condition of the crashed plane.”
The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified and is responding to both crash locations, Ipsen said.
Contact Greg Johnson at 352-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.