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Australian couple killed in plane crash north of Fairbanks

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Posted: Thursday, July 19, 2012 11:15 am | Updated: 10:34 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - A small private plane crashed about 40 miles due north of Fairbanks on Wednesday, killing the Australian couple on board.

The plane, a PA-32 Saratoga six-seat aircraft, crashed under unknown circumstances. It was headed from Fort Yukon to Fairbanks, due to arrive after 5 p.m., according to Clint Johnson, a senior air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. The cause of the crash has not yet been determined, he said.

Alaska State Troopers identified the two people killed as Stephen Knight, 64, and passenger Gillian Knight, 60, both of Queensland, Australia.

The plane was registered out of Palo Alto, Calif., to LNP Saratoga, an aircraft rental and leasing company and was leased to the West Valley Flying Club, an organization that rents more than 40 planes and also is based in Palo Alto, Calif.

As of Thursday night, an investigator for the NTSB had left Anchorage to investigate the crash but was waiting in Fairbanks for the weather to clear the crash site, Johnson said.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said troopers received a call from the state Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage just before 4 p.m. Wednesday to report that a plane had disappeared from the radar.

A Civil Air Patrol aircraft discovered the wreckage about 6:30 p.m. but was not able to access the site, said Johnson, with the NTSB.

Rescue crews from the 210th and 212th Rescue Squadrons of the Alaska Air National Guard in Anchorage were sent to the scene, arriving just after midnight Thursday.

“The aircraft was on fire,” National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes said this morning. “They could see there were fatalities on board. They weren’t able to recover anyone.”

Peters said poor weather conditions in the region hampered recovery efforts Thursday morning. Troopers will be working with NTSB investigators, she said.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime. Managing editor Rod Boyce contributed to this report.

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