Rangers Find Body of Fifth and Final Member of Plane Crash in Denali National Park, AK

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The wreckage of the K2 Aviation plane is near the summit of Thunder Mountain on the north side of the ridge, a feature located roughly 14 miles southwest of the summit of Denali. (NPS photo)

National Park Service rangers have located the body of the fifth and final person who died after a flightseeing plane crashed in Denali Park and Preserve on August 4. Rangers will not be attempting to recover any of the victims due to dangerous conditions at the wreckage site.

The K-2 Aviation flightseeing plane was piloted by Craig Steven Layson and was carrying four Polish tourists when it went down on a hanging glacier at an altitude of nearly 11,000-feet. Layson, of Saline, Michigan, initially survived the crash and made two satellite phone calls to his employer in Talkeetna on Sunday. He had attempted two calls the night of the crash but the connection dropped and no sound was transmitted, according to the Park Service.


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Credit: Kevin Powell / ADNSearch and rescue efforts were hampered by the high altitude and heavy cloud cover most of this week. A high-altitude helicopter reached the site Monday, and a ranger was lowered to the crash site. For safety reasons, the ranger had to remain attached to the helicopter while he searched the snow-filled plane. The ranger found four bodies but was forced to abandon the search after five minutes due to weather conditions.

Rangers returned to the crash site Friday and found a fifth body inside the plane, according to a news release issued by Denali National Park spokeswoman Katherine Belcher.

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A K2 Aviation plane similar to the crashed aircraft. Credit: Pinterest

Multiple hazards at the crash site will prevent rangers from retrieving the bodies and the aircraft, according to the Park Service. The aircraft is broken in half behind the wing and resting on a 45-degree slope covered with 2 1/2 feet of new snow. The tail section is still attached to the fuselage and is pulling the plane toward a glacier 3,500 feet below.

“Hazards at the crash site include, but are not limited to, avalanche danger, steep snow, and ice, crevasses … unstable blocks of ice loosely attached to the mountain and aircraft-related concerns such as protruding pieces of jagged metal,” the news release states. “The crevasse where the wreckage sits is a dangerous and potentially fatal terrain trap should even a small avalanche occur.”

The Park Service is not releasing the names of the passengers at the request of the Los Angeles office of the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland.

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