Alaska State Troopers have identified the missing pilot and passenger in the Knik Arm plane crash as 29-year-old Seth Fairbanks and 23-year-old Anthony Hooper, both of McGrath.
The Piper PA-18 Super Cub crashed Friday near Anchorage’s north border. Fairbanks grew up in Bethel and his parents still live there.
His father, Grant Fairbanks, says someone called 9-1-1 from the crash with his son’s cell phone.
“It was Seth and I’m sure it was Seth and I’m sure he called 9-1-1 and said, ‘We’re from McGrath and the plane’s upside down in Cook Inlet and we’re standing on the wings’. I have not heard the recording yet, but that 9-1-1 call went to the Bethel Police Department and they passed it onto the Rescue Coordination Center at Elmendorf,” said Fairbanks.
Fairbanks says the Rescue Coordination Center immediately dispatched planes to search, but it was around midnight and they couldn’t locate survivors.
Searchers found wreckage of the plane just after 6 a.m. Friday near Birchwood Airport, partially submerged on the mud flats. On Saturday the wreckage was taken to Birchwood Airport where the NTSB was investigating. The search expanded over the next few days, but there was still no sign of survivors. On Sunday, officials with the Rescue Coordination Center suspended their search, but members of the Fairbanks family were still searching by air and on foot.
Fairbanks says his son had lived in McGrath for eight years. He says his son was flying in for his sister’s reception in Anchorage after her wedding at the family’s Holitna homestead.
“He worked for a heavy equipment company and was a gold miner. He’s got two daughters up there and so he was part of the McGrath community,” said Fairbanks.
About 30 people searched the Cook Inlet area, but Fairbanks says his hopes aren’t high. He says people don’t survive in that water for more than a half-hour. The family is planning to hold memorial services.
“We’re going to have a memorial service here in Anchorage sometime in the next couple of days. And then we’re going to go to McGrath and have one there because he loved everybody in McGrath. And then we’re going to have one in Bethel when we go back in. You know, people call up and say, ‘what can we do?’ and I just say, ‘hey, hug your children – that’s all they need to do,’” said Fairbanks.
Sunday, Troopers said one of their helicopters was still searching the area.
The Alaska office of the Associated Press contributed to this story.