Two Australians killed in Alaska air crash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Fri Jul 20, 2012 4:10am BST

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Two visitors from Australia were killed in a fiery small plane crash in Alaska's interior, the Alaska State Troopers said on Thursday.

The Piper PA32 crashed on Wednesday about 39 miles (63 km) north of Fairbanks, the troopers said. Searchers alerted to the plane's emergency located its burning wreckage late in the day and confirmed that both people aboard the plane were killed.

The victims were identified as pilot Stephen Knight, 64, and Gillian Knight, 60, both of Queensland.

The search started after communications between the plane and an air-traffic controller ceased abruptly, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said. She did not say where the plane was heading when it went down.

A controller responded to a query from the plane, "and no one answered," Peters said. "At that point, they realized that the plane went off the radar."

Bad weather delayed recovery efforts until Thursday, Peters said. Although the crash site was only about a 25-minute flight from Fairbanks, the cloud ceiling was extremely low and "fog was horrible," she said.

The crashed Piper had been rented from the West Valley Flying Club of Palo Alto, California, said Clint Johnson, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Before the crash, it had been flying with another general-aviation aircraft also rented from the same club, Johnson said.

(Editing By Cynthia Johnston and Stacey Joyce)

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