On Feb. 6, 2020, a small commuter plane crashed outside the town of Tuntutuliak, killing the pilot and four passengers. There were no survivors.
The Piper PA-32R, a Yute Commuter Service plane, crashed along the lower Kuskokwim River at approximately 11:00 a.m. local time. Pilot Tony Matthews was flying four passengers from Bethel to the small coastal community of Kipnuk. Authorities identified the deceased passengers as 45-year-old Carrie Peter and her 18-year-old son, Quintin Peter; 66-year-old Charlie Carl; and 42-year-old Donna Mesak. All four were from Kipnuk.
The National Weather Service said weather conditions in Bethel at around noon on the day of the crash included low visibility, low clouds, intermittent light snow, and freezing fog. Yute Commuter Service reportedly held flights on the morning of Feb. 6 “due to a low ceiling.”
At this time, investigators are uncertain what caused the Yute Air plane crash. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the incident. A full report detailing the probable cause (or causes) of the crash will likely take a year or more to complete. At that time, the NTSB may offer applicable safety recommendations based on its findings.
What is Yute Commuter Service?
Yute Commuter Service provides scheduled passenger and cargo flights, as well as charters to the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta. In the immediate aftermath of the Feb. 6 crash, Yute decided to ground its planes. Yute Commuter Service General Manager Nathan McCabe said he is unsure when the company will resume flying.
The company issued a statement following the fatal crash. “Yute Commuter Service offers our deepest condolences of the families of those lost in this unfortunate event. Yute Commuter Service is committed to do everything possible to provide safe and reliable air travel within the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.”
Yute Commuter Service Involved in Several Accidents Over the Past Year
In April of 2019, a Yute Piper PA-32 lost engine power after departing from Aniak Airport in Bethel. The small plane made an emergency landing on a “tundra-covered meadow,” according to the NTSB’s preliminary report on the incident. The pilot and three passengers on board were not injured.
In November of 2019, another Yute small plane crashed in Goodnews Bay shortly after taking off. The pilot and a second Yute pilot in training were forced to climb onto the wreckage where the water level reached as high as their waists. A search and rescue boat reached the survivors within 20 minutes of the crash.
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