ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Military officials have resumed their annual trek to the Colony Glacier in Anchorage, where an Air Force plane crashed 65 years ago, killing the dozens of service members on board.
Operation Colony Glacier resumed Monday with U.S. Army Maj. Stephen Magennis leading the way, Alaska Public Media reported (http://bit.ly/2r1qy5q).
"Specifically, what we're doing here on the glacier is obviously recovery," Magennis said. "The primary focus for the operation is keeping team members safe. Second would be the repatriation of remains. And then third would be being good stewards of the environment, so as best we can cleaning up the parts and pieces of the wreckage that does present itself up on the glacier."
Sixty-five years ago, recovery was deemed too dangerous and the plane disappeared beneath the snow and ice. The remains were buried for years until an Alaska National Guard crew spotted the wreckage in 2012. Since then, officials have made an annual recovery effort.
Many of the service-members can be identified only through small amounts of organic matter and bone fragments tested for DNA matches. The ultimate length of the operation will be determined by how weather and the movements of the glacial terrain affect recovery efforts.
Magennis said rescue crews have identified 37 of the 52 total personnel who were on board during the crash.
Earlier this season, searchers also spotted a large section of plane debris on an upper section of the glacier, which could extend the operation by a few more years as they clean up the area,
The mission window is short, lasting just about a month. But there's also a no-fly zone set up around the recovery sight from May all the way through October. That's in part to keep away sightseeing aircraft and potential boaters after an incident earlier this spring.
The operation on Colony Glacier is set to last through June 30.