5 Old Believers Killed in U.S. Plane Crash

APRescuers retrieving a plane that carried Old Believers in Alaska on Sunday.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska's Old Believers are tough people accustomed to hard times. But even for them, these are the worst of times.

A plane crash Saturday killed five members of the Christian sect who had been planning to celebrate the Russian Orthodox Christmas on Monday. Instead, Ivan Basargin, 38, a married father of five, spent the day preparing to bury two of his brothers, Stefan, 36, who was married with nine children, and Pavel, 30, newly married and the father of one.

The village of Razdolna was to hold four funerals Tuesday. "Basically, we are not celebrating," Basargin said. "We are getting coffins ready."

Alaska has anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 Russian Orthodox Old Believers, a Christian sect that broke from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century when the patriarch wanted to standardize rituals and consolidate power within the church.

Old Believers were persecuted in Russia for hundreds of years.

They reacted by first moving to the outskirts of the Russian empire and then to points beyond -- including Alaska.

Saturday's crash occurred as they were returning from fishing near Kodiak Island to Homer to celebrate Christmas. The crash could have been because of a baggage door flying open soon after takeoff.