Last updated: 12:04 PM ET, Wed July 08 2015

Alaska Sightseeing Plane Crashed in 'Marginal' Weather

Impacting Travel | Holland America Line | Theresa Norton | July 08, 2015

Alaska Sightseeing Plane Crashed in 'Marginal' Weather

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

The sightseeing floatplane that crashed in Alaska June 25, killing eight Holland America Line passengers and the pilot, was operating under visual flight rules in “marginal” weather, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

The single-engine de Havilland DHC-3 Otter was equipped with safety technology that uses GPS to display the airplane’s position over the terrain, the NTSB said. Two units were sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington D.C. for evaluation.

The plane took off about noon June 25 for a sightseeing tour over Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness, about 24 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska.

“Marginal visual meteorological conditions were reported in the area at the time of the accident,” the NTSB report said. “A company VFR (visual flight rules) flight plan was in effect.”

The plane is believed to have crashed about 12:15 p.m. in “mountainous tree-covered terrain,” according to the NTSB.

When the plane didn’t return to Ketchikan, the operator, Promech Air, started a search and heard an emergency locator transmitter signal along the anticipated flight route.

A helicopter flew to the suspected accident site to search for the missing airplane. “However, the helicopter pilot said that he was unable to search the upper levels of the mountainous areas due to low ceilings and poor visibility,” the NTSB report states.

After waiting for conditions to improve, the helicopter located the wreck about 2:30 p.m. Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad members reached the site and confirmed the fatalities.

“The airplane impacted trees and a near vertical rock face in a nose high, wings level attitude at an elevation of about 1,600 feet mean sea level and came to rest upright on top of its separated floats, in an area of heavily forested, steep terrain,” the report said.

The NTSB report did not determine the exact cause of the crash, which remains under investigation.

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