Search Being Scaled Back For Missing Plane Over Katmai National Park

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.

Comments

Thanks for the updates!

My son is working at Brooks camp with these boys. He got a message to us that he was ok but these were his friends. This is so sad and we have many people praying for them from the lower 48. We purchased a SPOT ELT for my son. It was 150 + 150 for satellite hook up. We are not a rich family but this was important to us. I don't understand how the Federal parks can send these boys out for 10 days without and emergency contact equip. This is a terrible shame. What if they would have been critically injured before the plane returned? Our goverment is wasting money giving away "OBAMA phones" free cell phones to welfare people in the lower US, but we send people to remote areas for 10 days with no connection. How can this be? If these boys were issued ELT's for a mere $300.00 they may have been found and a million dollars and 14 days of searching could have been saved. It just doesn't make sense. I hope the Parks read this and take it into consideration. our hearts and prayers are to these boys and their families. I know they are sitting out there waiting for a ride home! Thanks!

Sorry, Greg, but you've been suckered by the radio hate mongers and email spammers.

The so-called Obama phones exist, but this is a program that was started under the Bush administration. It started in Florida and Tennessee in summer of 2008 -- before Obama was elected. Just a suggestion -- check these "facts" before you post them as fact. Snopes.com is a great place to do just that.

And if you keep this up, you'll have all the Tea Baggers mad at you. You seem to have forgotten all about "personal responsibility" and seem to want the government to step in and be nanny for all of us. I'm betting (although I admit I'm not sure) that these guys had some kind of radio contact with headquarters. Most NPS areas have good radio coverage.

The employees had both a park radio and satellite phone at camp. They had a park radio, aircraft radio and a spot device on the plane. Sorry you are so blinded by your anti government feelings that you cannot see the sad truth here- none of that matters a hill of beans when your pilot chooses to share the inside of a cloud with a mountain.

To the "Anonymous" person that posted at 1:19am.... Please consider who might be reading before you post a comment that can strike at the heart of the family members of these four gentlemen that are missing. I am close to one of those families and I know that they are checking this site regulary for updates of any kind. They do not need to read random thoughts of someone who apparently doesn't know how to check themselves before they speak. Alot of us are still holding out hope that they are all ok, even though it has been 19 days since the plane disappeared. Perhaps you can search the world wide web and find another site to have your political debates.

If your hope can be dashed by anonymous postings on web sites, then it is not hope, but an unreasonable wish caused by the perfectly appropriate stage of grief. It is on point with the story above that the park service - friends and coworkers of the missing - know what the score is and are not willing to risk the living to search for the dead, as sad as it is. This reward offered makes me sick with worry. Fools gold. We'll be searching again soon for another missing person or aircraft in the same area soon...someone with more need for money than sense.