Air Force Colonel Fatally Crashes In Alaska Lake Plane Incident

 June 22, 2024

An Air Force colonel and another individual tragically lost their lives when their small plane submerged into a remote Alaskan lake, adding a solemn note to the nation's aviation records.

According to CBS News, in a devastating event, a small aircraft crash into Crescent Lake claimed the lives of two men, prompting an intensive investigation and recovery operation.

The incident unfolded on a quiet afternoon near Moose Pass, Alaska. Crescent Lake, a remote and scenic location on the Kenai Peninsula, turned from a peaceful spot into a scene of tragedy when a small instructional plane was observed descending sharply from the sky by two bystanders hiking nearby.

The witnesses, who were enjoying a serene hike around the area, were shocked to see the aircraft, a staple of instructional flights, crash into the lake. Their immediate report to the local authorities triggered the onset of a large-scale search and rescue operation.

The plane submerged deeply into Crescent Lake, complicating the recovery efforts. Investigations later revealed that the aircraft settled in waters approximately 193 feet deep, posing significant challenges for the rescue teams.

Extensive Search and Recovery Underway

The Alaska Department of Public Safety, along with Alaska Wildlife Troopers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, spearheaded the complex recovery operation. Their efforts were concentrated around the daunting depths of Crescent Lake, known to extend over 200 feet in some areas.

The use of advanced technology was imperative in locating the wreckage. According to Austin McDaniel, a spokesperson for the troopers, their team deployed sonar technology, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and trained divers, focusing on "areas of interest previously identified in the lake."

These strategic efforts paid off when the plane was located on Wednesday and subsequently retrieved on Thursday. The use of such sophisticated recovery tools highlighted the difficult conditions under which the team operated.

Victims Identified Amidst Mourning

The victims of the tragic crash were later identified, bringing a personal dimension to the incident. Colonel Mark "Tyson" Sletten, 46, from Anchorage, and Paul Kondrat, 41, from Utah, were both found deceased within the submerged plane. Col. Sletten, known for his dedication and service, was the director of operations for the Alaskan Command, stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and a pivotal part of the U.S. Northern Command.

The loss of Colonel Sletten has deeply affected the military community, with many expressing their heartfelt condolences and remembrance of his strong leadership and commitment. Paul Kondrat's demise has also resonated deeply, marking a significant loss for both family and friends.

The bodies were carefully retrieved and transported to the State Medical Examiner's Office, where autopsies were conducted to further investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths and the crash.

Conclusion

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has taken the lead in investigating the precise causes of the crash. Their examination aims to determine not only the mechanical or technical faults but also any human factors that could have contributed to this unfortunate event. Findings from this investigation are crucial to preventing similar incidents in the future and enhancing safety protocols for small instructional flights in challenging environments like Alaska.

As the investigation unfolds, many await answers that could provide closure to the grieving families and insights into the aviation industry, particularly concerning flight safety standards in remote areas.

The community, along with the national aviation and military sectors, watches closely as the NTSB progresses in its thorough review of every possible facet of this accident, hoping to glean knowledge that will safeguard future aviators.

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