ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Two people were rescued from the chilly waters of Cook Inlet, but three others remained missing late Thursday after a helicopter crashed into the water during a snow storm about three miles from the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
An Alaska Air National Guard helicopter managed to pluck two people from the water. But heavy snow and poor visibility forced two other Air Guard helicopters to return to base after searching for the missing unsuccessfully for an hour.
''They stayed out there as long as they could, but conditions were getting pretty nasty,'' said Maj. Mike Haller, spokesman for the guard.
The Anchorage Fire Department sent two rescue boats to the scene. But visibility in the search area was less than one-eighth of a mile and the search was discontinued shortly before 6 p.m., said fire department spokeswoman Cleo Hill.
The Bell 206 LongRanger, operated by Era Aviation, was traveling from Fire Island, about five miles west of the Anchorage airport, when the crash occured at about 3:45 p.m.
The helicopter was carrying four employees of the Federal Aviation Administration who had been conducting maintenance on FAA navigation aids on the uninhabited island, said Marcia Davis, spokeswoman for Era Aviation.
Missing and presumed drowned were pilot Bob Larson, 60, of Anchorage; Joyce tucker, 46, of Anchorage and Ronald Frizzell, 53, of Wasilla.
Those rescued were identified as Steven Durand, 47, of Anchorage and William Dick, 34, of Anchorage.
The water temperature in Cook Inlet at the time of the crash was in the mid to upper 40s, according to the National Weather Service. The crash occurred at low tide.
''One of our rescue boats picked up a laptop and a duffle back and they saw some wreckage. The other rescue boat, due to low tide, was not able to get close enough to determine anything,'' said Cleo Hill, fire department spokeswoman.
The search was expected to resume Friday morning, weather permitting, Hill said.
The two survivors were transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center where they were being treated for hypothermia, Hill said.
''I don't really know how long anyone could survive in the water. Within ten minutes you can become hypothermic,'' she said.
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