A seaplane over Alaska. (Thinkstock)

A seaplane over Alaska. (Thinkstock)

State Troopers ‘reasonably certain’ found wreckage, human remains are from missing 2008 flight

In August 2008, a Cessna 182 airplane took off from Young Lake about 15 miles south of Juneau en route to the Juneau International Airport. It never made it.

On board were 56-year-old Brian Andrews and his 24-year-old son Brandon. Brian Andrews was the deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Revenue at the time. The wreckage — along with the two men in the plane — remained missing.

This past Wednesday, that changed.

A man reported to the Alaska State Troopers that he and a group of friends and family found the wreckage of a float-equipped Cessna 182 airplane on Admiralty Island and that he found human remains inside as well, Alaska State Troopers Spokesperson Tim DeSpain said Friday.

“We’re reasonably certain, from his description and documentation, that it is that (Andrews’) plane,” DeSpain said.

After a crew of investigators made a trip to the site Saturday, DeSpain said there was “no question” that it was the missing plane. DeSpain, who was not on the expedition but did receive the report, said the vegetation was dense in that area and there was no way the wreckage could have been seen from the sky during the initial search for it.

[Coast Guard searches for missing plane]

National Transportation Safety Board Chief Clint Johnson said that the Andrews family has been notified of the discovery.

Brent Andrews, Brian’s son and Brandon’s brother, wrote a blog post Saturday about the discovery, saying that the people who found the plane are “lifelong friends” of the Andrews family.

“I understand that this news has been, and will be, a shock to some,” Brent wrote. “For some, and for my family, it has led to a resurgence in all the feelings that arose when Dad and Brandon went missing, especially as we still miss your presence every day.”

The wreckage was found near Young Lake, Johnson said.

Members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue Group, a State Trooper and Mike Hodges from the NTSB investigated the crash site this weekend, having flown to Young Lake on a U.S. Forest Service flight.

Johnson said the team arrived on Admiralty Island on Saturday afternoon, and though Johnson initially thought the group would stay overnight and make the trip to the wreckage Sunday morning, the group actually did make it to the site Saturday night.

They made a preliminary identification of the remains, Johnson said, but it could take some time for the state medical examiner’s office to positively identify the remains. They transported the human remains off the island, Johnson said.

According to the NTSB crash report filed in 2008, the men on board were flying supplies back from a family camping trip. The report states that at the conclusion of the family’s camping trip, they determined that they had too much camping gear to safely take it to Juneau in one trip. They decided that all three of the people on the trip would fly back to Juneau and then Brian and Brandon would make one more round-trip flight to bring back the additional gear.

The plane departed the airport in Juneau at about 3:40 p.m. on Aug. 9, according to the report, and was expected to be back around 4:30 p.m. When the plane still wasn’t back at 7:15 p.m., the plane was reported overdue.

The Coast Guard, along with Alaska State Troopers and Civil Air Patrol, searched a 1,000-square mile area for the plane in 2008, but found nothing. A four-member team from Juneau Mountain Rescue hiked to the cabin the family was at, and found that the gear had been retrieved. The NTSB crash report said the two men were “presumed to have been killed.”

“I know that their disappearance was a very rare case,” Brent wrote Saturday, “and I’m glad that since 2008 there have been improvements in aircraft emergency signal requirements, photo reconnaissance, and other technologies, so that families in the future won’t have to conduct such searches for their loved ones.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.

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