A large cargo-type plane crashed in Alaska on Sunday and burst into a deadly fireball that sparked a forest fire at Denali National Park, officials said.
Park spokeswoman Kris Fister said there are fatalities, but it’s unclear how many because “the plane pretty much disintegrated.”
The fire was challenging responders, who did not immediately know who owns the multiengine aircraft. The plane went down near the park’s eastern edge at 3-15 p.m., about 100 yards (meters) off the only major road in the park.
No missing planes were immediately reported and military officials have said none of their planes were involved.
Clint Johnson with the National Transportation Safety Board said there are a number of large transport planes operating in Alaska. The NTSB was expected to arrive on scene Monday morning.
George Clare, of Las Vegas, said he saw the plane flying very low and slowly while he was walking toward the visitor’s centre near the park entrance. He thought the plane was going to land on a local airstrip, so he proceeded to the visitor’s centre. Within minutes, people came running in and saying a plane had crashed.
He said the crash caused a column of smoke a few miles west of the visitor’s centre.
Mr. Clare said the aircraft looked like a military plane to him.
“It was a military khaki green kind of colour,” he said. “It was propellor—driven. It was a fixed wing aircraft and it had kind of a flat underbelly.”
Doug Stockdale with the Alaska Fire Service said the fire was initially estimated at two acres (a hectare) but could have grown larger. Smokejumper fire crews were flown to the scene, he said.
The crash happened just four days after a military cargo plane crashed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, killing four people onboard.
The four airmen were on a training mission Wednesday evening for a weekend air show at the Air Force base, which wrapped up Sunday. The C—17 crashed about a minute after taking off.