Two NPS employees dead in private airplane crash

Two National Park Service managers on a personal trip to ferry a privately-owned aircraft from the Lower 48 to Anchorage died on May 27 when the plane crashed shortly after take-off from Whitehorse International Airport.

Jeff Babcock was the Alaska region aviation manager for the National Park Service and Charles Eric Benson was the agency’s Alaska region safety manager.

“Jeff and Eric were two of our very best and the National Park Service and Alaska have suffered a terrible loss,” said Bert Frost, NPS regional director.

Canadian officials and witnesses said the airplane crashed at about 5:30 p.m., shortly after takeoff into a forested area south of the airport. Emergency personnel from the Whitehorse Fire Department, the Whitehorse Royal Canadian Mounted Police and airport firefighters responded immediately when a column of smoke was seen rising from the area.

Prior to working for NPS, Babcock had a distinguished 23-year career with the Alaska State Troopers. After retiring from AST and before coming to work with NPS, Babcock flew for seven years for K-2 Aviation, flying guests around Mt. Denali.

Benson served 25 years in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army in a variety of assignments.  His active duty career culminated in December 2007 with the 10th Mountain Division while serving as a battalion executive office for the General Support Aviation Battalion at Fort Drum, N.Y. He joined NPS after retiring from the U.S. Army.