Cruise Passengers, Pilot Perish in Alaska Plane Crash
PHOTO: Eight passengers from the Westerdam were on a plane that crashed near Ketchikan on June 25. (Courtesy of Holland America Line)
Eight Holland America Line passengers and a pilot died when a float plane crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska, during a shore excursion sold by the line. Read all the latest updates to the story here.
UPDATE, 10:45 am EST, June 26:
The attempt to reach the plane and identify the victims is being delayed by poor conditions and the treacherous location of the crash site.
The NTSB has said it is sending a "go-team" from its Alaska regional office to investigate.
NTSB is sending a go-team from its Alaska Regional office to investigate a sightseeing plane that crashed near Ketchikan, Alaska.— NTSB (@NTSB) June 26, 2015
The team will include three members from Alaska and at least two people from Washington, D.C., according to the Associated Press.
Bad weather was hampering initial efforts to get to the crash site.
Due to bad weather, victims' bodies won't be recovered tonight; their names won't be released until families are told http://t.co/5msw3YiJ2l— Alaska Dispatch News (@adndotcom) June 26, 2015
Chris John of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad told Alaska Dispatch News that 13 volunteers with the organization went out to search the scene of the crash Thursday in two helicopters and two floatplanes. He described conditions as “very turbulent” with winds around 25 mph.
“The conditions were really steep,” John said. “It was a bad crash site.”
Rescue squad president Jerry Kiffer told ADN that the plane was heavily damaged in the crash. It sat upright on a 60-degree slope at the base of a cliff when the responding crews arrived.
"It's kind of hanging on the side of the mountain," Kiffer said. "The floats, of course, are broken off and it's actually (lying) on top of the floats with the tail hanging out over about a 30- or so foot drop."
First responders will likely have to use rope to steady the plane before rescue efforts move forward, Kiffer told ADN.
"We'll have to do some stabilization and get the aircraft safe to get inside before we start moving the victims," he said.
Eight Holland America Line passengers and a pilot died when a float plane crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska, during a shore excursion sold by the line.
The DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter single-engine aircraft was operated by Promech Air, a large Ketchikan-based air taxi company.
“There are no survivors,” Promech said in a statement. The names of the passengers and pilot were not immediately released, pending notification of their next of kin.
“There is nothing I can say that can alleviate the pain and overwhelming sense of loss that we and the loved ones of those affected are feeling,” Marcus Sessoms, president of Promech Air, said in the statement. “At this moment, all of us share the pain and anguish of this terrible event. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone touched by this tragedy. During this time of grief, our employees are working to do everything we can to extend support and assistance to the loved ones of those affected.”
The cause of the accident is under investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was on the scene to investigate.
Promech said the crash occurred at about 12:20 p.m. Pacific time. Authorities and the Federal Aviation Administration were immediately notified, and the NTSB, Alaska State Troopers, the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad and U.S. Coast Guard responded.
Alaska State Troopers said it received a report of an overdue aircraft at about 2:06 p.m. Thursday. “The report was confirmed by a Temsco helicopter pilot who stated he had observed the downed aircraft approximately 800 feet above Ella Lake in the Misty Fjords area against a granite rock face,” Alaska State Troopers reported in an online dispatch.
“We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the plane and their families,” Holland America Line said in a statement. “Holland America Line is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved.”
The passengers were from the Westerdam, which is sailing a seven-day Inside Passage cruise round-trip from Seattle that departed June 20.
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