ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An ambulance airplane flying from Anchorage to Seward last month circled for no apparent reason before crashing into a mountain, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Security Aviation flight crashed Nov. 29, killing a pilot, paramedic and nurse on board, KTUU-television reported.
Providence Seward Medical Center emergency clinic personnel contacted three air ambulance companies and requested transport for a patient in Seward.
The NTSB preliminary report confirmed that two companies declined the flight. Guardian Flight declined because of limited remaining daylight hours. LifeMed Alaska turned the job down because of inclement weather.
The company that provided the medical team, Medevac Alaska, was not notified that other flight companies had rejected the flight that day and forwarded the request to Security Aviation, Medevac's sole air charter provider.
Clint Johnson of the National Transportation Safety Board said a big part of the investigation will be determining standard operating procedures for flying at night in the area.
The plane Piper PA-31-350 flew at about 3,000 feet (945 meters) toward the Sterling Highway and was seen descending to 2,200 feet (670 meters) in a “right racetrack” pattern, a hard right turn into a loop. The airplane then continued into a valley toward Cooper Landing.
It's not known why the airplane made that maneuver, Johnson said
A witness near Mile 63 Sterling Highway saw the plane turn in a circle as it descended and enter the valley with wings rocking back and forth. The witness heard an explosion and saw fire on the mountain.
Another witness saw the plane fly low, hit the mountain and explode.
The crash site was 35 miles (56 kilometers) east of a weather station in Soldotna, which reported visibility of 10 miles (16 kilometers) and wind at 3 mph (4.8 kph).