The nine unidentified passengers killed in a small plane crash in southern Alaska on Sunday were believed to be from South Carolina, police said Monday.
The De Havilland DHC-3 Otter air taxi, which crashed near Soldotna, was on its way to the Bear Mountain Lodge on Chinitna Bay about 75 miles away, the lodge’s co-owner, Mac McGahan, told the Los Angeles Times.
McGahan declined further comment and referred questions to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is handling the investigation into the accident.
Officials declined to release the passengers’ identities as they worked to identify the bodies and notify the next of kin, the Soldotna Police Department said in a statement released through the Alaska State Troopers.
Local news media identified the 10th victim of the crash as the plane’s pilot, Walter Rediske, from Nikiski. Andrew Harcombe, who identified himself as a spokesman for Rediske Air, told the Anchorage Daily News that Rediske was a “highly experienced” pilot.
Officials believe the plane crashed shortly after departure from the municipal airport after 11 a.m. Sunday, about a mile from Soldotna’s commercial business area, near the Kenai River. Rescuers found the plane engulfed in flames.
Federal investigators don’t yet know the cause of the crash and expect to spend three or four days on the scene once they arrive.
“We’re going to talk to witnesses, look at the aircraft and the engine, make sure the parts are all there,” Terry Williams, an NTSB spokesman in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times.
Air travel is common in Alaska, where there are few roads through the state’s extensive backcountry, and small plane crashes are not uncommon.
The plane that crashed Sunday was similar to the De Havilland DHC-3T Otter that crashed in 2010, killing Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and four other people.
John M. Glionna contributed to this report.