Six dead after flightseeing plane crash near Ketchikan, weather hampering recovery

Mountains and ocean from a plane window
View of Misty Fjords National Monument from a float plane on August 1. (Molly Lubbers/KRBD).

UPDATE, AUG 6, 10 A.M.: Poor weather conditions and deteriorating visibility in the Ketchikan and Misty Fjords area have prevented the Alaska State Troopers and volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad from conducting any recovery efforts this morning.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Six people were killed in a flightseeing plane crash near Ketchikan Thursday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The de Havilland Beaver crashed eight miles northeast of Ketchikan, in the area of the Misty Fjords National Monument. The plane had a pilot and five passengers aboard, said the Coast Guard.

Holland America Line said the five passengers had come to Alaska on one of its cruise ships, the Nieuw Amsterdam, which stopped in Ketchikan on Thursday. The passengers were on a floatplane excursion with an independent tour operator, said a statement from the cruise line.

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The Coast Guard got an emergency signal from the floatplane around 11:20 a.m., said Petty Officer Eli Teller. The Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, the U. S. Forest Service and the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad responded.

Teller said the distress signal came from about 1,400-feet elevation in the area of the Misty Fjords. Initially, bad weather hampered the search, he said.

According to the Coast Guard, a helicopter spotted the plane’s wreckage on a ridgeline.

Rescuers reached the site just after 2:30 p.m. A Coast Guard helicopter lowered down two rescuers, and they found no survivors, said the Coast Guard.

Holland America said the plane excursion was independently operated by Southeast Aviation, and not sold by the cruise line. It said the passengers were on a seven-day Alaska cruise that left Seattle on Saturday.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims and with our guests and team members who are affected by this tragedy,” said the cruise line’s statement.

Misty Fjords National Monument is a popular flightseeing destination, especially with cruise ship passengers.

In 2019, a midair collision between two flightseeing planes in the Misty Fjords area killed six people. In 2015, nine people died when a flightseeing plane slammed into a mountainside in Misty Fjords.

Alaska Public Media’s Tegan Hanlon and Julia O’Malley contributed to this report.

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