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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Plane Crash in Alaska Kills 10, but Draws Scant Attention

Less than 24 hours after a plane crash at San Francisco International Airport killed two people and injured 180 others, 10 people died in a plane crash in Soldotna, Alaska. But while the accident in hyperconnected San Francisco instantly drew global attention through social media postings, video from dedicated plane-spotters and extensive news coverage, the crash in a town on Alaska's Kenai peninsula has barely bubbled into national consciousness hours after it occurred.

The pilot and all nine passengers on the air taxi were killed in the crash at 11:20 a.m. Sunday at the municipal airport, which is regularly used to transport tourists and residents for fly fishing, hunting and sight-seeing excursions. The passengers, a family of five and a family of four, were from Greenville, S.C., according to The State, a newspaper in Columbia, S.C.

While the events in San Francisco were unfolding online in real time, it took hours before the scale of the incident in Alaska was reported. Just before midnight Eastern time The Anchorage Daily News reported that 10 had been killed.

Some of Soldotna's users of social media also got word of the crash, Alaska's worst plane crash since 2001, only gradually, like one Soldotna resident on Twitter who published the following message on Sunday:

The National Transportation Safety Board announced that it had dispatched a team to investigate the crash in Soldotna, a town of 4,284 residents about 75 miles southwest of Anchorage. Because of the number of people killed, a safety board investigator working on the San Francisco investigation had been summoned to Alaska, according to KTUU.

A reporter with a local newspaper, Rashah McChesney of The Peninsula Clarion, captured the scene a few hours after the crash occurred:

The Clarion identified the pilot of the plane, a single-engine de Havilland Otter, as Willy Rediske, who owned a local charter plane company.

Local social media users took to Web sites to share their condolences. The boyfriend of a niece of the plane's pilot urged his friends on Facebook, “Be grateful for the ones you have.” And a local sportfishing association shared the following message on Twitter on Sunday:

Alaska is no stranger to civil aviation disasters. In 2010, a plane of the same model as the one involved in Sunday's accident crashed in a remote part of Alaska's southwest, killing former Senator Ted Stevens and four others aboard.