ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska State Troopers say the bodies of two Anchorage pilots in a cargo plane crash near Dillingham were recovered Saturday morning by the Alaska Air National Guard.
AST identified the victims of the downed plane as Capt. Jeff Day, 38, and First Officer Neil Jensen, 21, both of Anchorage.
Troopers said that an Air National Guard HH-60 Pavehawk found the wreckage of a downed Beech 1900 plane around 6:00 a.m. Saturday. A helicopter crew recovered the bodies and flew them to Dillingham and then to Anchorage. The bodies were turned over to the State Medical Examiner’s Office.
Jensen's father spoke with KTUU Channel 2 News Saturday afternoon.
"He loves being a pilot," said Peter Jensen, Neil's father. "He loves the other pilots he's working with and got a lot a of good advice from the captains."
Peter Jensen said his son recently graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona.
Weather conditions on Friday kept rescue crews from spotting the plane wreckage after troopers said the plane was expected to arrive in Dillingham Friday morning.
The cargo plane left King Salmon shortly before 8:00 a.m. Friday and the Rescue Coordination Center received an alert from the FAA of an overdue plane around a half-hour later. The Alaska National Guard said the plane had relayed radio communication that it was on approach to the Dillingham Airport.
Troopers said the “initial information is that the aircraft was flying instrument flight rules (IFR) and was cleared to land at the Dillingham airport and the aircraft never landed.”
Around 9:15 a.m. Friday, the Emergency Locator Beacon (ELT) began transmitting a signal. Troopers said the signal transmitted about 20 miles northeast of Dillingham in the the Muklung Hills.
In August 2010, former Sen. Ted Stevens and four others were killed in a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter plane crash in the same region.
The National Transporation Safety Board arrived on scene Saturday morning after crews found the wreckage and spent most of the day investigating the scene. The next step is to recover the the airplane pieces, which broke into three main pieces spread over an extensive area, according to the NTSB.
"I think the odds of being in a fatal car accident are similar, so to me his death is tragic and I'll miss him a lot but it could have as easily been a car accident," said Peter Jensen.
Editor's Note: Mallory Peebles contributed to this story.
Contact Neil Torquiano