Searchers recover black box recorder of missing Alaska plane

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Searchers have recovered the cockpit voice recorder and found other parts of an air ambulance that disappeared in Alaska with three people on board in January, the owners of the aircraft said Tuesday.

A landing gear and engine of the King Air 200 also were located in the same waters of Frederick Sound, Guardian Flight said in an initial release. The company later said an underwater search team located additional aircraft parts on Tuesday, including the tail assembly, fragmented fuselage, propeller blades and wing fragments.

Searchers estimate they found as much as 90 percent of the plane scattered over a large debris field in the waters of Frederick Sound, according to the Utah-based company. Guardian Flight said it plans to recover major pieces that could be useful in the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Clint Johnson, the NTSB’s Alaska chief, said options are being looked at for recovering airplane debris, but added plans have not been finalized.

“This is a work in progress,” he said.

An NTSB investigator was on board the recovery boat when the plane’s black box recorder was recovered Monday evening, and has possession of the black box, also known as a cockpit voice recorder, according to Johnson.

Guardian Flight said it continues its search for the bodies of the three people who disappeared Jan. 29 flying to pick up a patient in the southeast community of Kake.

Pilot Patrick Coyle, flight nurse Stacie Rae Morse and flight paramedic Margaret Langston were Guardian Flight employees based in Juneau.

“The families of our beloved crew members have been notified of these latest developments. We are hopeful that we will be able to recover their loved ones to aid them and the entire Guardian Flight team in grieving this tremendous loss,” Randy Lyman, the company’s operations vice president, wrote in a news release..

The Coast Guard searched hundreds of square miles (kilometers) before suspending the search Jan. 31.

An aircraft wing and other debris were found at the search site about 22 miles (35 kilometers) west of Kake near the last known position of the plane. Guardian Flight officials say they believe it was the missing plane.

The company initially grounded all of its 85 aircraft across the U.S. as a show of respect for the missing. It gradually re-started operations with aircraft based outside of Alaska.

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