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In the Soldotna crash, the flames took 10 minutes to extinguish and initially kept firefighters from reaching the wreckage, according to authorities.
The de Havilland is similar to an Otter that crashed in Alaska in 2010, killing former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and four others, Johnson said. The plane in the Stevens crash was equipped with floats, while the plane in Sunday's crash had wheels.
Flying in Alaska is common because of the limited road system in the vast state, where planes can encounter such hazards as volatile weather and treacherous mountain passes. The majority of Alaska communities aren't connected to the road system, with small planes providing a vital link to the outside world. They bring in food, medicine, mail and other supplies, and provide for air travel — with scheduled and on-demand flights.
It's possible to drive from Anchorage to Soldotna, but it's about a four-hour trip as the highway hugs Turnagain Arm then cuts through a mountain pass.
Soldotna, with a population of about 4,300, is on the banks of the Kenai River, and the area is busy this time of the year with people fishing for salmon. The airport is located about a mile from a commercial area and has a paved runway that is 5,000 feet long.
Alaska has seen several plane crashes this year, including a June 28 crash that killed a pilot and two passengers on a commercial tour in the Alaska Range. The passengers in that crash also were from South Carolina.