KNIK-FAIRVIEW — Two people, one an Alaska Wildlife Trooper, were injured when two airplanes collided in mid-air about 1 p.m., Saturday, authorities said. 

Update: Troopers identified Sunday those injured in the crash as Alaska Wildlife trooper Levi Duell, 35, of Anchorage, and Jeffry Bara, 52, of Eagle River. Neither Duell nor Bara was listed in the patient directory at Providence Medical Center Monday morning.

One of the planes belonged to the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, according to a statement issued by Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. 

Emergency responders located the pilot of each craft alive. One was suffering from serious injuries, and the other sustained moderate injuries in the crash, according to the release. Duell was taken by ground ambulance to Mat-Su Regional Hospital, and Bara was extricated and transported via helicopter to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, according to Peters. 

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the collision, according to the statement.

Responders employed multiple helicopters, six-wheel all-terrain vehicles, and snow machines in attempts to reach the scene, according to borough emergency manager Casey Cook. 

“One orange, one red-and-white,” he said by way of describing the two downed planes.

At least one victim taken from the scene reportedly had a two-inch-diameter tree trunk protruding from their chest, and was transported via helicopter to an undisclosed local hospital, according to Mat-Su Emergency Services radio traffic. At least one victim was reported to be exhibiting agonal breathing, or one breath every thirty seconds, according to radio reports.

A Life Med helicopter was initially paged out to the scene. However, responders were considering using a Department of Public Safety helicopter instead, because of landing conditions near the scene, according to Cook.

Responders initially attempted to use short-range tactical radio channels to communicate during the response, but were forced to use long-distance radio channels to communicate when tactical channels apparently didn’t work, according to radio 

National Transportation Safety Board investigators would likely start to play a role in the investigation, Cook said.

Central Mat-Su and West Lakes Fire Departments, Alaska State Troopers, and other agencies responded to the scene of the wreck.

Most responding vehicles parked along a bend in West Cormorant Way, near an air strip listed on Google Maps as South Hollywood. Phone messages to the listed number for South Hollywood weren’t immediately returned, and the corresponding voice mail returned to Cross Creek Incorporated, a business licensed to sell real estate in Alaska. A property check along the road turned up two residential hangars, one owned by the Mat-Su Borough and the other owned by Chad Reel, according to borough property records.

Plane crashes involving Alaska State Troopers are rare if not unheard of. The most recent happened on March 30, 2013 and claimed the lives of a trooper helicopter pilot, a trooper flying with him and the snowmachiner they’d just rescued near Talkeetna. That crash led to changes in the rules for trooper helicopter pilots. 

Contact Brian O’Connor at 352-2269 or brian.oconnor@frontiersman.com

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