Death toll in Alaska floatplanes collision climbs to six

The floatplanes were carrying passengers from Royal Princess The floatplanes were carrying passengers from Royal Princess

Late Tuesday evening authorities recovered the final two bodies from a midair floatplanes collision in Alaska, bringing the death toll to six. The deceased include four Americans, one Australian and one Canadian.

Ten survivors

Ten people survived. The two floatplanes collided Monday afternoon approximately eight nautical miles from Ketchikan.

Both planes carried passengers from a Royal Princess cruise.

'All of us at Princess Cruises are deeply saddened by this tragic news and send our heartfelt condolences to the families affected,' Princess spokesman Brian O'Connor said. He added that the line immediately activated its Princess Care Team and sent additional team members to Ketchikan overnight to assist the guests and their families who were impacted.

Royal Princess is sailing a 'Voyage of the Glaciers' cruise that departed Vancouver, BC, on May 11 and is scheduled to arrive in Whitter on May 18.

Taquan Air and Mountain Air planes

One aircraft, de Havilland DHC-3 Otter operated by Taquan Air, was flying a shore excursion sold through Princess. The flight was returning from a Misty Fjords tour carrying 10 passengers from Royal Princess and a pilot. The second floatplane, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver operated by Mountain Air — an independent flight tour company not sold through Princess — was carrying four additional guests from the same ship along with a pilot.

Previously, the US Coast Guard and local search and rescue teams confirmed that nine of 10 American guests and the pilot of the Taquan Air plane were rescued and received medical attention. Early Tuesday morning, the last person was recovered from the Taquan aircraft.

The last two bodies were found in King George Inlet near the crash site of the Beaver floatplane by the Coast Guard and Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. A USCG MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew located the individuals and vectored the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad to the location.

27-hour search effort

USCG, partner agencies and good Samaritans conducted surface and air searches, operating around the clock for more than 27 hours, concentrated in an area of 93 square nautical miles. Coast Guard assets included the cutter Bailey Barco, two Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters, two Station Ketchikan 45-foot Response Boat-Mediums and an Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircraft.

Numerous searches were conducted by good Samaritans, the US Forest Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Ketchikan Fire Department, Alaska State Troopers and TEMSCO Aviation. The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad and SEADOGS conducted multiple shoreline searches.

'We have been in regular contact with the family members throughout our search efforts,' said Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau commander. 'This is not the outcome we hoped for and extend our deepest sympathies during this very difficult time.'

Investigations

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident. The Alaska State Troopers will complete the death investigation.

Posted 15 May 2019

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Anne Kalosh

Editor, Seatrade Cruise News & Senior Associate Editor Seatrade Cruise Review