Four killed in plane crash near Mount Hunter

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Two mountain climbers, a tourist, and a pilot were killed Wednesday when their small plane went down in Denali National Park and Preserve, according to officials with the National Park Service.

One of the victims was pilot Keli Mahoney, 35, of Talkeetna, a musher who ran twice in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and twice in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Also killed were climbers Bruce Andrews, 39, of Lafayette, Colo., and Mark Wagoner, 31, of Snow Camp, N.C., along with flightseeing passenger Carolyn Disselbrett of Salem, Ore.

The Cessna 185 departed Talkeetna at 12:50 p.m. and crashed between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. in a relatively flat area at an altitude of about 8,200 feet, according to John Quinley of the National Park Service.

The spot is in an area of glaciers south of 14,573-foot Mount Hunter. It on the route from Talkeetna to the Kahiltna Glacier base camp where climbers begin their journeys up Mt. McKinley and neighboring peaks.

Weather was generally clear in the region and ''there was no distress call or anything that indicated a problem'' before the plane went down, Quinley said, and there was no signal from an emergency beacon. Another flightseeing plane spotted the wreckage and alerted authorities.

A special high-altitude helicopter chartered by the park service was dispatched to the site and found there were no survivors, Quinley said. It returned to the area late Wednesday afternoon to ferry in an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, and was beginning the process of bringing out the bodies Wednesday evening, Quinley said.

The two mountaineers were planning to attempt the Sultana Ridge route on Mt. Foraker, considered a tougher peak than McKinley. Andrews was a guide with the Alaska Mountaineering School and Wagoner was his client.

The plane belonged to McKinley Air Service, a company started more than nine years ago by Mahoney and LeeAnn Wetzel to ferry climbers to Mount McKinley and take tourists on flightseeing trips in the national park in central Alaska.

Mahoney was the company's pilot and Wetzel did marketing and paperwork. Before moving to Talkeetna, Mahoney had spent a couple of years in Bethel working for a small airline there. Before that, she flew commuter routes of out Boston for TWA. She grew up in Massachusetts.

Mahoney mushed twice in the Iditarod, finishing 30th in 1997, her first attempt. She scratched in 1998. She mushed twice in the Quest, scratching in 2001 and finishing 22nd in 2002.

According to her Iditarod biography in 1997, she started mushing in 1992, after moving to the state in 1991.

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