Five dead after two planes collide mid-air in Alaska

By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Two small planes collided in mid-air over southwest Alaska on Wednesday, killing all five people aboard both aircraft, authorities said.

The crash occurred around 11 a.m. local time (1900 GMT) about 60 miles (96 km) north of the city of Bethel, Alaska National Guard spokeswoman Candis Olmstead said in a statement.

The single-engine planes were a Cessna 208 Caravan with three individuals on board, and a Piper PA-18 Super Cub carrying two people, Olmstead said.

The Cessna belonged to Hageland Aviation Services, a regional airline, and the Piper was operated by Renfro's Alaskan Adventures, she added. Renfro's offers wilderness hunting and fishing trips out of Bethel, according to its website.

Alaska is a sparsely populated U.S. state more than twice the size of Texas, and residents in remote areas rely on small planes for travel, recreation and mail delivery.

Alaska State Troopers said in a statement that rescue workers searching the crash site found no survivors aboard either aircraft, and said an investigation was continuing.

Olmstead said the crash occurred about 6 miles northwest of Russian Mission, a remote community in the southwest of the state along the Yukon River.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, authorities said.

Neither Hageland nor Renfro's immediately responded to requests for comment.

An Alaska Army National Guard helicopter ferrying medics have arrived at the crash site, Olmstead said.

(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by James Dalgleish and Richard Chang)