Two die in small plane crash

Aircraft went down on Alaska Peninsula

Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2006

Two people were killed when a small plane crashed near Port Heiden on the Alaska Peninsula, the Coast Guard's Juneau office announced.

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The wreckage of the Pen Air plane was found Thursday night by a Coast Guard helicopter crew sent to the site after the plane was reported overdue and a signal from an emergency beacon was received. A second Pen Air flight also was sent to help out.

Late Friday troopers said Andrew Simonds, 25, of Anchorage was the pilot. Renee Matson, 45, was listed as the only passenger.

The State Medical Examiner will perform autopsies on the victims and confirm their identification, Alaska State Troopers said.

The wreckage of the six-seat Piper Cherokee was spotted by a Coast Guard helicopter crew in slightly hilly terrain about 18 northeast of Port Heiden. The single engine, propeller-driven plane crashed on land about four miles from shore, said Lt. Mara Booth-Miller with the Coast Guard in Juneau.

The plane had left Port Heiden for King Salmon about 150 miles away. An emergency beacon directed the Coast Guard Command Center in Juneau to the location northeast of Port Heiden. The signal from the plane's emergency beacon was received at about 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Authorities were told 30 minutes later that the Pen Air plane was overdue. The wreckage was spotted about four hours later.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, the Coast Guard said.

It also was not known if weather was a factor, Booth-Miller said. The weather at the time of the crash was mostly cloudy with winds gusting to 29 mph and 6 miles visibility.

Port Heiden is about 90 on the north side of the Alaska Peninsula, 425 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Rescuers hoped to retrieve the bodies Friday from the crash site. However, Booth-Miller said bad weather was moving into the area so there could be a delay.

• The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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