FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 15, 2008
Contact: Greg Wilkinson, (907) 269-7285, Cell (907) 382-7032
Ann Potempa, (907) 269-7957, Cell (907) 240-9158
Remains identified from 1948 crash
Fingerprints finally solve mystery of remains recovered from Mount Sanford
Two airline pilots, along with a team of forensic and genealogical experts, today announced the results of nine years of research into the identity of remains recovered from Northwest Airlines flight 4422, which crashed into Mount Sanford in Alaska on March 12, 1948, killing the 24 Merchant Marines and six crewmen onboard.
Pilots Kevin McGregor and Marc Millican located the wreckage of the legendary aircraft in 1997.
In 1999, while recovering enough artifacts to positively identify the plane, the two pilots discovered a human hand. An unusual ring - stamped “Iran” on one side and “1946” on the other was found nearby by Alaska State Trooper Rodney Dial who was on-scene for the recovery.
After many attempts to identify the hand, forensic experts used a newly developed re-hydrating solution to restore the fingerprints on the hand and establish a positive match with fingerprint records kept by the Merchant Marines. In-depth genealogical studies and cutting edge DNA research resulted in a mitochondrial and nuclear DNA match. The hand has now been positively identified as that of Merchant Mariner Francis Joseph Van Zandt. Van Zandt hailed from Roanoke, Va. and was 36 years old when he died.
Van Zandt’s family has agreed to leave the remains with researchers for further study. Based on forensic data, Alaska's acting chief medical examiner, Dr. Stan Kessler, was able to officially establish identification as Van Zandt and issue a death certificate.
The ring found at the site was identified by family members as that of Merchant Mariner Arthur Eilertsen, another victim of the crash. Although found near Van Zandt’s hand, there is no connection between the two.
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For further information, please contact:
Kevin A. McGregor, Major (Ret), USAFR,
Marc Millican, Lt. Col. (Ret), USAFR,