Emergency response crews transport an injured passenger to an ambulance at the George Inlet Lodge docks, Monday, May 13, 2019, in Ketchikan, Alaska. The passenger was from one of two sightseeing planes reported down in George Inlet early Monday afternoon and was dropped off by a U.S. Coast Guard 45-foot response boat. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP)

Emergency response crews transport an injured passenger to an ambulance at the George Inlet Lodge docks, Monday, May 13, 2019, in Ketchikan, Alaska. The passenger was from one of two sightseeing planes reported down in George Inlet early Monday afternoon and was dropped off by a U.S. Coast Guard 45-foot response boat. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP)

NTSB to investigate in Alaska after deadly plane crash

Four people were killed after the floatplanes carrying cruise ship tourists collided

  • Monday, May 13, 2019 11:03pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE — A team of federal accident investigators is expected to arrive in Alaska Tuesday to try to piece together what caused a deadly midair collision between two sightseeing planes.

Four people were killed after the floatplanes carrying cruise ship tourists collided Monday near the southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan, the Coast Guard said. Two others were missing, said Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios, a Coast Guard spokesman.

The Washington, D.C.-based investigative team from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to arrive in Ketchikan Tuesday afternoon, agency spokesman Peter Knudson said. He said board member Jennifer Homendy also is traveling with the so-called “Go Team,” which investigates major accidents.

The floatplanes collided under unknown circumstances, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said in an email to The Associated Press. Floatplanes have pontoons mounted under the fuselage so they can land on water.

The passengers were from the cruise ship Royal Princess and were on sightseeing flights, one of which was operated by flightseeing company Taquan Air.

Eleven people were inside Taquan’s single-engine de Havilland Otter DHC-3 when it went down as it returned from Misty Fjords National Monument, which is part of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest. Ten people were taken to a Ketchikan hospital.

All patients were in fair or good condition, according to Marty West, a spokeswoman for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.

Three people who died were among five people aboard the second plane, a single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, according to Coast Guard Lt. Brian Dykens. It’s unclear which plane carried the fourth victim, whose body was recovered during a Monday night search, Rios said.

Local emergency responders worked with state and federal agencies and good Samaritan vessels to help rescue and recover victims.

“It’s been a long day and the crews have been working really hard to rescue people and recover the deceased,” Deanna Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, the local government, said Monday evening.

A spokeswoman for Taquan Air, operator of the Otter, said the company had suspended operations while federal authorities investigate the deadly crash.

“We are devastated by today’s incident and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families,” Taquan said in a statement.

Cindy Cicchetti, a passenger on the Royal Princess cruise ship told the AP that the ship captain announced that two planes were in an accident Monday. She said the ship is not leaving as scheduled and there weren’t any details as to how the accident will affect the rest of the trip.

The ship left Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 11 and is scheduled to arrive in Anchorage on Saturday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives and the families of those impacted by today’s accident. Princess Cruises is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

Weather conditions in the area on Monday included high overcast skies with 9 mph southeast winds.

It’s not the first time a major plane crash has occurred near Ketchikan, a popular tourist destination.

In June 2015, a pilot and eight passengers died when a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter operated by Promech Air Inc. crashed into mountainous terrain about 24 miles from Ketchikan. The NTSB later determined that pilot error and lack of a formal safety program were behind the crash.

More in News

In this March 19, 2020, file photo Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, talks with reporters following a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington. Murkowski acknowledged Thursday, June 4, that she’s “struggling” over whether she can support President Donald Trump given his handling of the virus and race crises shaking the United States. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
Mattis emboldens GOPers to criticize Trump

Murkowski on Thursday called the rebuke by Trump’s first Pentagon chief “necessary and overdue.”

A pair of tents sits at the Infinity Pools above the Tutka Backdoor Trail in Kachemak Bay State Park on July 9, 2019. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
State officials urge Alaskans to get outside

During a virtual town hall, commissioners fielded questions from the public on state recreation.

COVID-19. (CDC)
Nonresident COVID-19 cases nearly double; 8 residents test positive

Seventeen of the 18 new nonresident cases are workers in the seafood industry.

Photo provided by Ocean Bluff B&B
                                Tammy Kehrer of Palmer sits on the deck overlooking Cook Inlet at Ocean Bluff B&B in Kasilof. Kehrer is the daughter of owner Kathy Carlisle.
B&B bookings take hit due to virus

Owners have been getting feelers from in-state visitors, but so far reservations have been rare.

A king salmon during the 67th annual Golden North Salmon Derby at the Don D. Statter Memorial Boat Harbor in August 2013. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Low king counts result in closures on southern Kenai Peninsula

As of Sunday, video weirs and sonar had counted 184 king salmon at the Anchor River.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a Friday, March 27, 2020 press conference in the Atwood Building in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
Revised travel mandates to begin Friday

Those arriving from outside the state must self-quarantine, but revisions allow for exceptions.

Nikiski Fire Station #2, seen here on July 15, 2019 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
3 in Nikiski fire service test positive for virus

11 members of the department have been quarantined due to the possibility of COVID-19 exposure.

The Devil’s Creek Trail in Chugach National Forest, seen June 15, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
During pandemic, Chugach National Forest mostly stays the same

One of the differences will be in how much volunteer help the forest gets.

In front and from left to right, Aaron Ford, Karianna Ford and Jenni Stowe hold signs at a protest on Sunday, May 30, 2020, at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska, in support of people of color who have been the subject of police violence, including George Floyd, a man who died May 25, 2020, in a police encounter in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition to the “We (heart) our po po” sign — “po po” is slang for “police” — there also was a sign that read “Thank you HPD.” (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Homer residents organize multiple demonstrations on racial injustice

Gatherings, protests and demonstrations have been held in Alaska from Anchorage to Haines to Bethel.

Most Read