Four bodies were found and a fifth person is presumed dead after a National Park Service ranger searched the wreckage of a plane crash near the summit of Thunder Mountain in Denali National Park in Alaska.
The pilot of the plane was Saline resident Craig Layson, a South Lyon native who owned Stony Creek Collision. Layson, a pilot for K2 Aviation, took off in a de Havilland Beaver plane carrying four passengers from Poland around 5 p.m. Saturday. The plane crashed about an hour later on Thunder Mountain at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet.
Several published reports say the pilot survived the immediate impact. He used a satellite phone to contact his company twice, reporting injuries. Later attempts at communication failed.
Rescue efforts were hampered by weather and poor visibility. According to the Anchorage Daily News, National Park Service mountaineering engineer Chris Ericksen was lowered from a helicopter to the wreckage. He found four bodies and detected no signs of life. A fifth person wasn’t found. Ericksen said it was possible the fifth person was in the plane and not seen because he was hurried by deteriorating weather that was moving in. There were no footprints or disturbances near the plane that would indicate any of the occupants made it out outside.
The search operations were halted, National Parks Service Spokeswoman Katherine Belcher told KTVA.
"Search operations have been halted because we did make it to the site of the downed aircraft," said Belcher. "We did confirm that four passengers onboard are deceased, a fifth passenger is assumed dead."
Belcher told KTVA the park service wasn’t able to confirm which four people were found in the plane.
"We haven't confirmed what the fatalities are," Belcher said. "We don't know if one of them's the pilot, if all four are passengers. We don't have that information yet. It was a quick in and out because the weather was moving in. So for the safety of our staff, they went down, did what they needed to do."
Layson and his wife, Maggie, have spent the last two summers in Alaska, where Layson has worked as a pilot.
Layson is also survived by three children.