Update: Victims of Alaska Cruise Ship Passenger Plane Crash Recovered, 'Tentatively' Identified
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Deterred by “poor conditions and the treacherous location of the crash site,” as reported by TravelPulse’s Theresa Norton Masek on Friday, recovery crews finally reached the location where eight cruise ship passengers and their pilot died in a plane crash.
The accident occurred at Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan in southeast Alaska, and according to Chris John with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad via the Associated Press, the DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprop crashed into a cliff 800 feet above a lake in “steep, muddy, and slippery” terrain.
John said to the AP that the fuselage was “largely intact,” but the wings and tail were “heavily deformed.” He also said that the steep angle of the site meant three members of his team had to secure the wreckage before the bodies could be safely recovered.
The deceased were passengers aboard the Holland America Line ship Westerdam, and the ill-fated flight was a shore excursion sold through the cruise company.
After recovering the bodies, Alaska State Troopers tentatively identified the victims as Hal Cheney, 71, and Mary Doucette, 59, of Lodi, California; Glenda Cambiaso, 31, and Hugo Cambiaso, 65, of North Potomac, Maryland; June Kranenburg, 73, and Leonard Kranenburg, 63, of Medford, Oregon; Margie Apodaca, 63, and Raymond Apodaca, 70, of Sparks, Nevada; and the pilot, Bryan Krill, 64, of Hope, Idaho.
The remains will be taken to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage, where they will be positively identified.
Sally Andrews, Holland America Line spokeswoman, said to the AP by email that the cruise line received “a small number of calls in our offices from concerned family members or friends.
"We let them know that families of those guests involved in this tragic accident were being notified according to the emergency contact information provided by the guests to us," she wrote.
Andrews said there was an announcement on the Westerdam when the ship was in Ketchikan suggesting that guests contact family members to let them know they were OK.
The NTSB’s Brice Banning told Alaska Dispatch News (ADN) the cause of the crash has yet to be determined. He said he would be on scene Saturday, and begin an investigation that could last several days. Afterwards, the wreckage will be taken to Ketchikan for further inquiry, he said.
As speculation begins, weather is arising as a potential cause for the crash. ADN said a National Weather Service report for the Ketchikan International Airport around the time of the crash reported scattered rain showers with winds between 6 and 17 mph. Around noontime, gusts reached 26 mph.
Rob Murray, a pilot who flew with Promech Air, the airline that operated the doomed flight, for six years, called the flight path through Misty Fjords “perfectly safe.” However, he did say said assessing weather conditions along the route could be difficult without cameras in the area or someone on the ground relaying data.
“You’ve got that big area in there where you’ve got to just fly it to see what the weather’s doing,” Murray said to ADN.
More by Michael Isenbek
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