ANCHORAGE — A small airplane ferrying a father and his two teenage children to Anchorage presumably plunged into an expansive Alaska lake shortly after taking off from a nearby rural community, officials said Friday.
No bodies have been found, but items belonging to the pilot and three passengers on board were discovered floating Thursday in Lake Clark, said John Quinley, a spokesman for the National Park Service in Alaska.
The names of the four were released Friday, a day after families were notified that debris belonging to them had been located.
All four on board the single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee plane were from Port Alsworth, a small community about 170 miles southwest of Anchorage. They included the pilot, Kyle Longerbeam, 25; Scott Blom, 45, and his children, Kaitlyn Blom, 14, and Zach Blom, 13.
Clint Johnson, head of the Alaska region of the National Transportation Safety Board, said other members of the Blom family took off in a separate plane and arrived safely in Anchorage. Johnson told Anchorage television station KTUU that it wasn’t immediately clear why the family was flying in two different airplanes. Quinley said the family had lived there for about three years. The debris was found about 3 p.m. Thursday, about 11 miles northeast of Port Alsworth.
Searchers in boats and airplanes forced to stop work because it got dark returned at daybreak Friday to resume looking for the missing airplane in the 375-foot deep lake. An Alaska State Trooper helicopter was set to help searchers Saturday if needed.
Ice that would hinder searchers has not totally covered the 42-mile long lake, allowing access by boat. The plane left Port Alsworth about 10 a.m. Wednesday and was due to land two hours later in Anchorage.
Responders said the initial search area was hampered by fog and darkness at Lake Clark Pass, a narrow mountain river valley that was believed to be part of the aircraft’s flight path.
Searchers found no indication of any emergency locator beacon being activated in the area, Alaska Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Eagerton said.