After two weeks of searching without spotting a clue, National Park Service officials on Friday announced that they were scaling back efforts in the hunt across massive Katmai National Park and Preserve for a lost plane and its four occupants.
Since their single-engine float plane took off from Swikshak Lagoon on August 21, not a signal or sign has been detected from Park Service employees Mason McLeod, brothers Neal and Seth Spradlin, and pilot Marco Alletto.
“We have logged almost 60,000 flight miles over the past two weeks. Despite an exhaustive effort on the part of the park, the incident management team, and others, we have found no leads. We are scaling back our efforts in part to reduce risk to those participating in this complex operation,” said Alaska Regional Director Sue Masica.
Katmai Superintendent Ralph Moore added that (A)ll of us here at Katmai National Park, and in the communities of Naknek and King Salmon, are devastated by this tragic incident. To lose such fine people hurts deeply. Our hearts go out to the families of Neal, Seth, and Mason and to our friends at Branch River Air.”
The Park Service employees had been working to tear down a deteriorating patrol cabin at Swikshak and were returning to park headquarters at King Salmon when the plane piloted by Mr. Alletto vanished. Another plane that departed the area 15 minutes later never received a transmission from Mr. Alletto. Weather conditions were so poor, that the second plane flew only about 500 feet above ground on the way back to King Salmon.
The terrain, which in Katmai ranges from flat willow bottoms and swift rivers to vast expanses of heavy timber and glaciers, made the searchers' job a difficult one, as some areas could "swallow" a plane without sign, according to Park Service officials.
The National Park Service will continue limited searching with regular park patrols and other resources. All pilots flying over the park are encouraged to observe and report any leads as well.