Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion
Anchorage, AK (AP, WLTX) - Authorities say nine passengers who died when an air taxi crashed at a small Alaska airport are believed to have been South Carolina residents.
Soldotna, Alaska police say the names of the 10 people on board the de Havilland DHC3 Otter operated by Rediske Air will not be released until their remains have been positively identified by the state medical examiner's office.
However, South Carolina State Representative Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) told News19 that five of his neighbors died in the crash, and that all of those victims are from Greenville.
The pilot in Sunday's plane crash at the Soldotna airport also died.
The air taxi crashed just after 11 a.m. Sunday at the airport in Soldotna, a community about 75 miles southwest of Anchorage and located on the Kenai Peninsula.
"We do have 10 fatalities, unfortunately, nine passengers, one pilot," National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson told The Associated Press.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Otter was operated by Rediske Air, based out of another Kenai Peninsula community, Nikiski.
Will Satathite, who was working Sunday at Rediske Air's Nikiski office, confirmed to the Peninsula Clarion newspaper that the aircraft was flown by Nikiski pilot and company owner Willy Rediske with nine passengers onboard.
Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Meagan Peters said a fire that consumed the aircraft initially kept firefighters from reaching the wreckage. The victims have not been identified.
The Soldotna Police Department said Sunday evening that the remains of all 10 people have been recovered and sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Anchorage for autopsies and positive identifications.
Police said in a release through the Alaska State Troopers that weather at the time of the crash was reported to be cloudy with a light wind.
Johnson said initial reports have the plane crashing after departure, but that will have to be confirmed by investigators.