ANCHORAGE - The start of the school year in several Alaska communities is on hold after a small plane carrying all three teachers for a tiny village crashed in the wilderness, killing one of the teachers days before classes were set to begin.
The pilot also died when the single-engine Cessna 207 went down Saturday night as it headed to the Athabascan community of Anvik in western Alaska. Shock and grief rippled through the seven-school Iditarod School District.
“It’s like we’ve lost a family member,’’ school district secretary Helen Mwarey said yesterday by phone from district headquarters in McGrath, 140 miles east of Anvik.
Classes at the seven schools were set to begin tomorrow, but the start was postponed after the crash. District superintendent Karen Ladegard said schools would probably not open until next week.
Counselors flew to Anvik to help people cope with the deaths of veteran Anvik teacher Julia Walker, 52, also known as Julie, and the pilot Ernie Chase, 66, who grew up in Anvik, according to Ladegard.
“It’s a small district and everyone is connected with each other,’’ she said.
Survivors of the crash are new teachers Don and Rosemarie Evans, both 32, their 10-year-old son, Donny, and 8-year-old daughter, McKenzie. All were being treated at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
The family moved to the community of 85 in June to get to know the residents as they prepared to share a teaching position at the 18-student school, Ladegard said.