6 dead and 10 injured after two floatplanes carrying cruise ship passengers collided in mid-air in Alaska
The floatplanes were carrying 14 passengers and 2 pilots from the cruise ship Royal Princess and had been sightseeing when the accident occurred.
Update 2: The bodies of two more people have been found after small sightseeing planes crashed in Alaska, the Coast Guard says.
Coast Guard Lt. Brian Dykens said six people have died in the collision Monday afternoon near Ketchikan. Dykens said his agency and the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad found the two bodies near the crash site of the smaller plane involved in the collision, a single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver.
Update 1: Ten people, all Americans, were injured, with three of them released from a hospital Tuesday. The missing passengers were from Canada and Australia, Princess Cruises said.
Five people have been confirmed as dead and 10 others have been hospitalized after two small sightseeing planes crashed midair on May 13 close to the southeastern Alaskan town of Ketchikan.
Princess Cruises said in a statement that the pilots in each of the planes were flying cruise ship passengers who were on tour. They were carrying 14 passengers and 2 pilots from the Royal Princess who were on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Vancouver. The planes collided mid-air about 1 p.m. about eight nautical miles from Ketchikan, at the southeastern end of the state.
The larger plane, a de Havilland Otter DHC-3 with 10 passengers and the pilot, was returning from Misty Fjords when it collided with a smaller sightseeing plane, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver carrying four passengers from the same cruise ship and a pilot.
The other plane, the Beaver, appears to have broken apart in midair, according to Jerry Kiffer, duty incident commander of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. He said the plane's tail and section of the fuselage were 900 feet (275 meters) from the aircraft's floats, which landed near shore.
The cause of the crash in relatively good weather, high overcast skies with light southeast winds was not known. The planes came down about a mile and a half apart with some of the debris field on land.
Peace Health Communications Director Beverly Mayhew told USA TODAY that 10 people are currently receiving treatment at the Peace Health's Ketchikan Medical Center. One person is confirmed to be in a critical condition, three are in serious condition, and six people are reportedly in fair condition.
The fatalities in the incident were confirmed by Princess Cruises who also said that one passenger's condition is unknown. The floatplanes collided under unknown circumstances, Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer told The Associated Press. Floatplanes have pontoons mounted under the fuselage so they can land on water.
The passengers from the cruise ship Royal Princess were on sightseeing flights, one of which was operated by Taquan Air. A spokeswoman for the flightseeing company said Taquan has suspended operations while federal authorities investigate the deadly crash.
The Otter, operated by Taquan Air, was initially traveling at an altitude of about 3,800 feet (1,158 meters), according to Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, whose investigators arrived in Ketchikan Tuesday afternoon. He said the Otter had descended to an altitude of around 3,300 feet (over 1,000 meters) when it collided with the Beaver as both headed to Ketchikan.
The smaller plane was partially submerged in the shore of George Inlet after the single-engine plane overturned and hit some trees before crashing, according to Coast Guard Lt. Brian Dykens. The larger Otter landed in water and sank, he said.
"We are devastated by today's incident and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families," Taquan said in a statement. "At this time, we are in the midst of an active crisis response, and our focus is on assisting these passengers, the pilot, our staff, their families and loved ones, and first responders."
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 FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. Weather conditions in the area on Monday included high overcast skies with 9 mph (14 kph) southeast winds.
With AP inputs.