Searchers find wreckage of DC-3

Posted: Thursday, January 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE -- Searchers have found the wreckage of a DC-3 cargo plane that may be an aircraft that took off from Unalaska on Tuesday night.

Spokesmen for the Coast Guard and the Unalaska Department of Public Safety said helicopter observers confirmed the wreckage found on a mountain about 10 miles north-northwest of downtown Unalaska was a DC-3.

They could not say, however, whether the wreckage is from a plane that took off from the Unalaska airport Tuesday night and was reported missing Wednesday.

A DC-3 belonging to Majestic Air Cargo with two people on board took off from the Unalaska airport at about 9 p.m. Tuesday. Sgt. John Nichols of the Unalaska Department of Public Safety said the plane was on its way to Anchorage and was believed to be carrying seafood.

Names of the crew members of the missing plane have not been released. Nichols said police are attempting to contact next of kin.

The wreckage was spotted at about the 1,500-foot level on a steep mountainside six miles from the Unalaska airport at Eider Point. Nichols said observers did not believe anyone could have survived the crash.

''If we thought there were any possibility of survival, we'd be up there,'' Nichols said.

Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Ahearn said the Coast Guard received an emergency locator transmitter signal relayed by satellite at about 11 p.m. Tuesday night.

A Coast Guard helicopter based in Kodiak and on assignment in Cold Bay was diverted to the Unalaska area but found nothing Tuesday night.

The search continued Wednesday, Ahearn said, and the helicopter crew received audio signals from an ELT while searching.

At about 1:30 p.m. a search boat launched by the Unalaska harbormaster used a hand-held direction finder that picked up a signal from the mountainside. Using binoculars, searchers spotted what looked like a tail section of an aircraft between Eider Point and Tabletop Mountain.

A Coast Guard helicopter flew over the crash site and confirmed that the aircraft was a DC-3. The helicopter was unable to land due to steep terrain and weather conditions. Nichols said winds were blowing 30-40 miles per hour with gusts up to 70 mph.

If weather permits, the Coast Guard will transport a search and rescue teams to the crash site Thursday.

However, the weather was expected to deteriorate overnight, said Chief Petty Officer Marshalena Delaney. She said the forecast calls for a storm warning with winds nearing hurricane force.

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