Updated: Searchers Looking for Missing Plane With Park Service Employees Aboard at Katmai National Park and Preserve
Searchers looking for a missing plane with four occupants in Katmai National Park and Preserve focused Monday on a series of river valleys that drain down into Kamishak Bay.
The search, in its third day, criss-crossed the northeastern lip of the 4-million-acre Alaskan park, looking for a single-engine float-plane that vanished Saturday on its return from picking up three National Park Service maintenance workers who were tearing down a dilapidated ranger cabin. The plane, a deHavilland Beaver operated by Branch River
Air Service in King Salmon, was piloted by Marco Alletto, 47, of King Salmon, Alaska, and Rome, Italy, park officials said.
The three passengers were Mason McLeod, 26, and two brothers, Neal Spradlin, 28; and Seth Spradlin, 20, according to the Park Service.
Officials said the focus on the river valleys stemmed from the expectation that the plane would have flown up one of the valleys, then along Kulik Lake west toward King Salmon. The weather in the primary search area Monday morning was excellent, with largely clear
skies and excellent visibility, the Park Service reported.
The aircraft involved in the search are equipped with GPS tracking devices, which allow the search managers to plot areas that were intensely searched on Saturday and Sunday, along with areas that need a closer examination. First light Monday saw helicopters search the coast of Katmai from Katmai Bay to Swikshak Bay on the chance the missing aircraft began an unexpected route back to King Salmon on Saturday afternoon. However, no sign of the missing plane was found, park officials reported.
The search began late Saturday afternoon after the Beaver failed to return to King Salmon. Two planes owned by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon flew to Swikshak Lagoon on Saturday to pick up the maintenance crew preparing for the reconstruction of an old ranger station. The crew was picked up by the Beaver at 1:45 p.m., and a second plane
left Swikshak 15 minutes later. The second plane, with two employees and pilot on board, returned safely but had to fly much of the way 500 feet above ground level due to deteriorating weather conditions.