Bethel, AK Cessna Plane Crash, Dec 1999


Anchorage, Alaska (AP) -- The search continued today for a plane carrying six people that disappeared during a flight in southwestern Alaska.
The single-engine Cessna 207, operated by Grant Aviation, left Bethel shortly after noon Tuesday, bound for Nightmute, Tooksook Bay and Tununak. The three communities are located about 125 miles west of Bethel on Nelson Island.
Alaska State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson says the plane never arrived at any of those locations. Weather at the time of the flight was poor, with heavy snow and poor visibility.
Troopers identified those on the plane as HENRY TONY, 70, and his wife, THERESA TONY, 69, of Nightmute; MATTHEW FRIEND, 36, and his wife LUCY FRIEND, 34, of Tununak and ISADORE THERCHIK, 27, of Tooksook Bay. The pilot was identified as BRANDON J. SULLIVAN, 33, of Redondo Beach, Calif.
An Army National Guard helicopter, the Civil Air Patrol, several planes from Grant Aviation and volunteers on snowmachines searched for the plane until 1 a.m.
Searchers picked up weak signals from an emergency locator transmitter last night in an area north of the plane's destination and were concentrating their efforts in that area today.
Temperatures in the area had dipped to about 10 below zero overnight. Blowing snow reduced visibility were expected to hamper the search today, Wilkinson said.
"The weather is expected to worsen so we're not exactly sure how long they'll be able to stay airborne," he said.
Grant Aviation's Bethel Station Manager, Kristy Smith, said the air carrier would be closed for business today in order to concentrate all its efforts on the search.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator traveled to Bethel this morning.
"We always have high hopes, but we also anticipate the worst," said Jim LaBelle who heads the agency's Alaska office.

Daily Sitka Sentinel Alaska 1999-12-08