The 29-year-old Fairbanks was shown for the first time during the show’s season finale. He was helping the residents of Tanana determine how dangerous the annual ice breakup of the nearby river might be and how it could impact the small town. Fans were shocked to see that at the end of the episode, “In Memory of Seth Fairbanks, 1985-2015.” The Alaska Dispatch reported on November 9 that the single-engine Piper PA-18 Super Cub he was flying flipped over in a mud flat near the Birchwood Airport in Chugiak.
When first discovered, a search was conducted for survivors in the area, but no one was found. The plane itself was difficult to reach in order to conduct a search due to the tides. At high tide, the plane completely disappeared and at low tide it was still too difficult to reach on foot because of what Alaska Air National Guard spokesperson Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead described as “swift-moving, murkey waters, changing tide levels and location of the aircraft.” Fairbanks also had one passenger on board, believed to be 23-year-old Anthony Hooper, who was also from McGrath.
According to Alaska Public, Grant Fairbanks stated that his son was flying into Anchorage for his sister’s wedding reception on Friday. “Knowing the color of the plane, the direction, the time, we knew it was him,” Grant Fairbanks said Saturday night. He added that Seth had been a pilot for around three years, and recently attended a special flight training school in California.
After an exhaustive search, both men are still missing and presumed lost. Alaska Native News reports that state troopers believe that Fairbanks made a call usng a satellite phone. The number he called was re-routed to the trooper dispatch center in Fairbanks. He told the trooper dispatch center that he was standing on top of the plane and needed to be picked up immediately, then after 69 seconds the call ended. A helicopter and a boat were able to eventually extract the plane from the mud. An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board oversaw the removal and traveled with the plane to the nearby airport.
On the show, Fairbanks flew Charlie Wright over the river so he could check the status of the ice. One year the ice came up into the town, destroying several buildings. Later, he goes out to find Stan Zuray’s son Joey, and drop him a message that the ice was breaking up and to move further downstream to the closest town of Manley. Joey doesn’t follow instructions and tries to make it back to Tanana in a leaky boat, but he’s too late and has to return to his original hunting site. Stan asks Fairbanks to go retrieve his son, which he does. “He was a very helpful person,” Grant Fairbanks said. “Just a really good person.” From what viewers saw from just that one episode, it is safe to say everyone would readily agree.
Fairbanks has twin daughters, and a substantial amount of money has already been raised for them that will be held in a trust fund. Are you a fan of the show? Leave your comments and thoughts below.