ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Two single-engine planes collided in the air Friday near a remote western Alaska village, sending one aircraft crashing nose first and leaving its pilot presumed dead, authorities said. It was the state's third midair crash since July.
Just the two pilots were aboard the planes when they collided in the afternoon near the village of Nightmute, about 400 miles west of Anchorage, State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.
One plane landed, but the other crashed and burned on impact, she said.
The pilot of a Ryan Air Cessna 207 that put down safely was identified Kirsten Sprague, 26, of Idaho. Sprague walked away from the landing but was flown to Bethel, about 100 miles away, for a medical evaluation, Peters said. No hometown was available.
The pilot of the Cessna 208 Caravan that crashed was identified as Scott Veal, 24, of Kenai, Alaska. That plane was destroyed and Veal "is presumed deceased" although no body has yet been recovered, the spokeswoman said.
The Anchorage Daily News reported that the Caravan was operated as an air taxi and cargo carrier. Ryan Air is a rural freight carrier.
Both planes were flying toward Bethel, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson said.
There was no immediate word on what caused the crash. Forecasters said the weather at the time was overcast with cloud ceilings of about 1,000 feet but there was no fog or rain.
Johnson said he and a Federal Aviation Administration investigator would be headed to Nightmute on Saturday morning to try to determine the cause of the collision. The village is located on Nelson Island off Alaska's western coast.
In a July 30 midair crash, Corey Carlson, his wife, Hetty, and their two young daughters, all from Anchorage, were killed when their single-engine Cessna 180 floatplane crashed and burned after hitting another floatplane north of that city. The other plane, a Cessna 206, sustained significant damage but was able to return to Anchorage with its pilot uninjured.
On July 10, nine people aboard a Piper Navajo and four people in a Cessna 206 were uninjured when the planes collided as they were flying directly toward each other in Lake Clark Pass -- a narrow river valley that runs between Anchorage mountains. Both aircraft had minor damage but were able to land safely.
A federal accident investigator has said that both of those midair collisions were marked by the same factor, aircraft that were difficult to spot amid mountainous terrain.
NTSB Larry Lewis told The Associated Press in early August that it's difficult to spot another plane that's airborne, particularly if it is flying at the same altitude.
"When you're looking at the same altitude, you're actually looking at very smallest cross section of an airplane you can actually see," he said.
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