NTSB to investigate in Alaska after deadly plane crash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A team of federal accident investigators arrived in Alaska yesterday 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, DC-based investigative team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived in Ketchikan yesterday, agency spokesman Peter Knudson said. He said board member Jennifer Homendy was also is travelling 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.

Emergency response crew transport an injured passenger to an ambulance at the George Inlet Lodge docks in Ketchikan, Alaska. – AP

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 Centre.

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 crew 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 on Monday evening.