Alaska State Troopers have identified former Wrangell resident 62-year old Peter Iversen, Sr. as the pilot found dead in a crashed small cargo plane.
He was flying a Grumman C-1A carrying fuel on Monday afternoon from Wasilla to Nixon Fork Mine, which is about 32 miles east of McGrath. Iversen’s friends alerted authorities when he didn’t arrive that evening. Alaska Air National Guard Spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said the Federal Aviation Administration requested the Guard begin search efforts.
“They initially sent out a Pavehawk helicopter to do a night search using night-vision goggles, but due to crew rest requirements, they had to come home that evening. They were unable to find anything. The next morning at about 8 a.m., we sent out an HC-130 aircraft from the Alaska Air National Guard. This aircraft is significant and unique because it has advanced electronic search equipment, which allow it to pick up weak electronic signals. They’re able to hone in on it, which can help finding an aircraft if it’s gone down, especially in a wooded area,” he said.
The crew located the wrecked plane between Willow and Skwentna. Hayes said the Guard’s para-rescue jumpers were flown in and were able to identify there was one deceased occupant.
Alaska State Troopers were brought in to confirm the pilot’s identity. National Transportation Safety Board investigator Chris Shaver says his team was at the crash site Wednesday looking for a possible cause. The agency is exploring the possibility of recovering the wreckage and checking weather and aircraft data.
Hayes said there are important lessons to be learned from this incident.
“The pilot hadn’t filed a flight plan, so we didn’t know exactly the path that he was taking from Point A to Point B. We knew that he was leaving Wasilla and he was headed to Nixon Fork Mine, but we had to kind of search along that path in order to find him. Luckily, we were able to find the aircraft, a lot of times in Alaska we never do,” he said.
He also suggested pilots be equipped with 406 MHz beacons, which he said makes it easier to find downed planes and could lead to more saved lives. Iversen had been living in Anchorage with his wife at the time of the crash. He graduated from Wrangell High School and his father Bernard served as the town’s Postmaster in the late 1960s.