Questions Surround Emergency Call from Knik Arm Plane Crash

by Daysha Eaton on August 12, 2015

Courtesy Alaska State Troopers.

Courtesy Alaska State Troopers.

UPDATED: 8/12, 12 p.m. – It appears there was a delay when an emergency call came in from a plane crash on Knik Arm last week that is believed to have led to the deaths of 29-year-old Seth Fairbanks and 23-year-old Anthony Hooper.

The 911 call at 11:54 p.m. last Thursday was first received by the Alaska State Troopers post in Bethel, according to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board. Fairbanks was standing on top of the airplane in the swift waters of Cook Inlet.

The call is believed to have been auto routed to a Troopers Emergency Services Dispatcher in Fairbanks. But Trygve Erickson, a technology expert with the Municipality of Anchorage says the call should have been routed directly to Anchorage or Palmer.

“The system did not work the way it’s designed to work, the way it works virtually always. I saw virtually always,” said Erickson.

It appears that there was at least a 9-minute delay before the Rescue Coordination Center heard about the emergency. The NTSB says that the RCC got word at three minutes past midnight. They say air assets were on scene by 12:16 a.m.

A new 9-1-1 system was implemented July 1st , which sends 9-1-1 calls from numbers in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta to a dispatch center in Fairbanks. Previously, 9-1-1 calls were auto routed to the Bethel Police Department. But Erickson says because the call was place from the Anchorage area, it should have gone to a dispatch center closer to the crash.

“The fellows at the crash site dialed 9-1-1 with the expectation that it would go to first responders in the area they were at and it didn’t. And I suspect the cell carriers and the 9-11 centers are endeavoring to find out why that call didn’t go to Anchorage or Palmer,” said Erickson.

The NTSB says there was no radio contact from the men after they left McGrath to fly to an Anchorage wedding reception.The NTSB says the turbid, glacier-fed waters are fast moving.  A high tide of nearly 27 feet above the low tide was rushing in at the time of the crash. Investigators found a GPS unit and will analyze any salvageable data. Searchers found the wreckage of the Supercub the next morning, but no sign of the two men.

KYUK Reporter Ben Matheson contributed to this story.

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