Four people were found dead on Monday and a fifth person is still missing nearly two days after an airplane carrying Polish tourists crashed into a rugged Alaska mountain, officials say.
Pilot Craig Layson sent out a distress call after the crash on Saturday evening, reporting that passengers were injured, according to the Associated Press. However, the connection failed and the group remained stranded for more than day before rescue crews could even see the wreckage through the cloudy, rainy conditions, the outlet reported.
On Monday, a National Park Service Ranger was lowered down to the crash site on a wire, and he dug through the snow-filled aircraft, in which he found four people dead, the NPS announced. A fifth passenger remained missing on Monday and is believed to be dead.
“There were no footprints or disturbances leading away from the site and there were no other signs to indicate any of the passengers made it out of the plane,” the park service said.
Layson and the passengers took off from Talkeetna Saturday evening for a tour of Kahiltna Glacier, the AP reported. The aircraft crashed near the top of Thunder Mountain, which reportedly stands at 10,900 feet. The plane crashed on a steep area near the mountain, which is about 14 miles from Denali ( the highest mountain peak in North America).
“It’s a very tricky terrain up there,” Katherine Belcher with the NPS told KTVA. “It’s basically a sheer vertical cliff: lots of ice, lots of snow, lots of rock.”
The Polish tourists traveled to Alaska in a group of nine, a member of the Polish Consulate in Anchorage reportedly told KTVA. The remaining five waited in Talkeetna for the first group to return from the sightseeing flight.
“One of the elderly mothers she was calling, she did not speak English,” Stanislaw Borucki, Honorary Consul of Poland, reportedly told the station of the difficulty of sharing the sad news with the deceased family members overseas.
Continued Borucki, “And try to tell that your son is dead. And then she has to call the girlfriend. One of the young men that was in the flight, he was getting married. To tell the young lady that your boyfriend, your future husband, is dead, it’s very difficult.”
Officials with the NPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said officials are not yet releasing the victim’s identities, but several outlets, including The Saline Post have revealed Layson’s identity.
Layson leaves behind a wife, Maggie, and three children, the Post reported. Layson’s friends, Kimberly and Brian Iott, told the publication that Maggie has flown with the well-respected pilot several times, but was not with him at the time of the crash.
“Maggie is distraught. She has no family with her,” Kimberly said. “Craig’s brother is flying in to Alaska tomorrow.”