Four die in plane crash in Denali

Iditarod musher was among those who died

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Two mountain climbers, a tourist, and a pilot were killed Wednesday when their small plane went down in Denali National Park and Preserve, according to officials with the National Park Service.

One of the victims was pilot Keli Mahoney, 35, of Talkeetna, a musher who ran twice in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and twice in the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Also killed were climbers Bruce Andrews, 39, of Lafayette, Colo., and Mark Wagoner, 31, of Snow Camp, N.C., along with flightseeing passenger Carolyn Disselbrett of Salem, Ore.

The Cessna 185 departed Talkeetna at 12:50 p.m. and crashed between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. in a relatively flat area at an altitude of about 8,200 feet, according to John Quinley of the National Park Service.

The crash site is in an area of glaciers south of 14,573-foot Mount Hunter. It is on the route from Talkeetna to the Kahiltna Glacier base camp where climbers begin their journeys up Mount McKinley and neighboring peaks.

Weather was generally clear in the region and "there was no distress call or anything that indicated a problem" before the plane went down, Quinley said, and there was no signal from an emergency beacon. Another flightseeing plane spotted the wreckage and alerted authorities.

A high-altitude helicopter chartered by the park service carried a National Transportation Safety Board investigator to the site and began the process of bringing out the bodies Wednesday evening, Quinley said.

The two mountaineers were planning to attempt the Sultana Ridge route on Mount Foraker, considered a tougher peak than McKinley. Andrews was a guide with the Alaska Mountaineering School and Wagoner was his client.

The plane belonged to McKinley Air Service, a company started more than nine years ago by Mahoney and LeeAnn Wetzel to ferry climbers to Mount McKinley and take tourists on flightseeing trips in the national park in central Alaska.

Mahoney was the company's pilot and Wetzel did marketing and paperwork.

Mahoney mushed twice in the Iditarod, finishing 30th in 1997, her first attempt. She scratched in 1998. She mushed twice in the Quest, scratching in 2001 and finishing 22nd in 2002.

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