NEWS

Alaska Plane Crash Kills At Least 1 After Craft Hits Downtown Anchorage Buildings

12/29/2015 04:02 EST | Updated 12/29/2016 05:12 EST
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A small plane clipped a downtown Anchorage office building and then slammed into a nearby commercial building early Tuesday, igniting a fire and killing at least one person aboard, authorities said.

There were no injuries on the ground, but it's unclear if anyone else was in the plane, Anchorage Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd said. The crash happened in the heart of downtown, in an area surrounded by office buildings, hotels and other businesses, before most businesses opened for the day.

The aircraft belongs to the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force that is made up of volunteers who help in search and rescue missions, federal authorities said.

There were no sanctioned flights when the plane crashed at 6:18 a.m., said Clint Johnson, Alaska region chief for the National Transportation Safety Board.

anchorage plane A small plane clipped a downtown Anchorage office building and then slammed into a nearby commercial building early Tuesday, igniting a fire and killing at least one person aboard, authorities said. (Photo: Alaska Dispatch News via AP)

Karen Bowen, a bookkeeper who answered the phone at the Civil Air Patrol office, relayed comments from the group's commander that the crash is under investigation. The Associated Press left a message for the volunteer commander, who wasn't in the office.

The plane came in over the shoreline toward downtown and clipped the corner of the office building, where some state employees work. Then it crashed into the lower side of an adjacent multistory commercial building, setting it on fire.

Crews responded quickly and had the blaze under control, fire officials said.

Kent Haina, a 747 captain for UPS, said he was taking out his garbage when he saw the plane go down at a shallow angle and disappear behind a building. He then heard a loud thud and saw a plume of black smoke.

Haina said the wind was howling at the time.

"(The engine) didn't sound like it was in trouble, but the weather was pretty windy," he said. "I said to myself, 'It's not good weather to be flying in.'"

anchorage plane A National Transportation Safety Board investigator takes photos at the scene of an aircraft crash, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Anchorage, Ak. (Photo: Alaska Dispatch News via AP)

The NTSB's Johnson said the crash happened amid blustery winds but that the agency is not ruling out anything as a cause. The agency looks at pilot error, mechanical problems and weather.

The commercial building appeared to be unoccupied at the time of the crash, though crews were searching it to make sure, Don Tallman of the Anchorage Fire Department. Authorities cordoned off an area around the building, closing several roads.

The aircraft also struck a transformer, and there were some power outages in the area, fire officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB will investigate, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said. He had no additional details on the type of plane.

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Associated Press writers Alina Hartounian and Courtney Bonnell in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show that Allen Kenitzer with the FAA made the comments, not Ian Gregor.

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