National Park pilot crashes near Serpentine Hot Springs

A pilot with the National Park Service was rescued after the single engine airplane crashed en route from Kotzebue to Nome near Pish River, about four miles northeast of Serpentine Hot Springs, in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

The pilot, Rick Dolan, identified by National Park Service spokesman Peter Christian, sustained injuries but as of press time on Tuesday has been already released from an Anchorage hospital.

Dolan, a Kotzebue-based NPS employee piloting an NPS-owned airplane, was on duty and headed to Nome from Kotzebue when he encountered unfavorable weather conditions that may have led to his crash four miles north of Serpentine Hot Springs, according to Christian. No other passengers were on board.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage received an aircraft crash alert at 9:09 a.m. on Monday, April 15 from a National Park Service single-engine Cessna 185 aircraft. The pilot was able communicate with an overhead airplane and reported he had been injured in the crash, which significantly damaged the airplane.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife pilot from Nome attempted to respond but was turned back by bad weather.

NPS requested assistance from the AK Rescue Coordination Center, AKRCC for short. They sent a HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter and a team of pararescuemen from the Alaska Air National Guard and a C-130 airplane to the rescue. The airplane was necessary to refuel the helicopter several times in the air to give it the reach from Anchorage to the crash site on the northern Seward Peninsula. The exact position of the accident site was known, but according to Evan Budd, Alaska Air National Guard Senior Master Sergeant, high winds and whiteout conditions made it difficult to access the crash site by either ground or air.

According to Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Aileen Witroski, the troopers in Nome were on standby but were not called to aid in the rescue. Nome Search and Research was not notified. A ground rescue attempt from Shishmaref proved unsuccessful due to the area’s whiteout weather conditions. After day-long rescue attempts, the AKRCC rescue team used the Pave Hawk helicopter to fly to the site and land within 300 yards of the downed airplane to access the pilot and treat his injuries. Dolan was flown by helicopter to Nome and transferred to the C-130 for transport to Anchorage. There, the Anchorage Fire Department responded and took him to Providence Hospital.

Budd reported that the pilot was thoroughly prepared with necessary provisions including a sleeping bag and food, which would have increased his chances of survival if the severe weather had worsened or not let up.

According a National Guard press release the pilot was treated for minor injuries and released.

The crash will be investigated by the FAA and NTSB, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

With reporting by Diana Haecker

This report reflects a correction as the pilot's name was misspelled (Nolan) in the previous report and has been corrected to Dolan.

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