Estes Park police chief says he's lucky to be alive after surviving plane crash in Alaska

Posted at 6:21 PM, Aug 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-09 20:21:55-04

ESTES PARK, Colo.-- The Estes Park Police Chief is back at work after surviving a plane crash in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness while on vacation.

"I'll tell yeah to this day it's by God grace - we all made it through that plane crash cause they always don't turn out well," said chief Wes Kufeld.

The crash happened on July 31 and two days later Kufeld returned to work. 

Kufeld said it was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, and he along with a group of friends had been planning their vacation for several months. 

They traveled deep into the Alaskan wilderness about 285 miles outside Anchorage along the Holitna River.

"As you're in the plane as you look down -- really it sets you back, you really look back and think no one's been here," said Kufeld. "We caught a lot of fish, saw a lot of wildlife, we saw a grizzly bear, we saw a black wolf."

While on their trip, he said he was more worried about bear encounters than a plane crash.  

"When you get out of the plane and you look back - you see the wreckage, what are you thinking at that moment," asked Denver7 reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.

'It's surprising that anybody could have walked out of there," said Kufeld.

He said they had just taken off from the runway on the final day of their weeklong trip.

"When we started to lift off the plane took an immediate right and then an immediate left, as soon as it took that left -- I remember saying out loud, 'on no' and I remember thinking this is going to hurt because we're going to crash," explained Kufeld.

"When did you know everybody was ok?" asked Kovaleski.

"I'm looking around and nobody was saying anything and I finally just said guys we need to get out of this plane," said Kufeld.

All five passengers on-board walked away with only minor injuries. The impact crushed the entire tail of the plane before it came to a stop. 

"We were just absolutely fortunate," said Kufeld.

They still don't know what caused the crash, but Kufeld said the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Kufeld said he's just grateful to be alive and back at work serving his community.

"It was a very spiritual weekend and I can't help but think it was God's hand that saved us in that situation," he said.

Since the crash happened near the runway they were able to get help quickly.

Kufeld said the group had to take a boat to a nearby town to catch another flight before heading back to Colorado.