Float plane collision in Alaska leaves 4 dead, 2 missing: Coast Guard

At least four people are dead and two are missing after two float planes collided in midair Monday near the southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

In a statement released after the collision, Princess Cruises said five people had died and one person was missing but CBC News received different numbers as the search went on.

Late Monday night, the U.S. Coast Guard said four are dead and another two are missing. 

“We don’t really have any expectations of survivors at this point,” Jerry Kiffer, an incident commander with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad said earlier in the evening.

Boats and helicopters were searching the area, according to coast guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios, who said both aircraft had been located. 

The passengers of both planes were on an expedition to shore from the cruise ship Royal Princess, according to the cruise line. 

The planes collided under unknown circumstances, Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer said in an email to The Associated Press. The collision occurred at approximately 1 p.m. local time.

Ten people, plus one pilot, were on a de Havilland Otter DHC-3 operated by Taquan Air. Both the cruise company  and he rescuers say ten of the people on the Taquan Air flight were taken to a Ketchikan hospital, and one passenger was missing. 

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

Five people were aboard the other plane, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver. Princess Cruises said all five on board that plane, including the pilot, were killed.

Ketchikan is approximately 770 kilometres north of Vancouver. (CBC)

The coast guard announced the discovery of a fourth body late Monday night but Rios said it was unclear which plane the victim was on.

Ship not leaving

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

The Taquan Air flight was sold through Princess Cruises, the company said. The other flight was an independent tour.

Ketchikan is approximately 140 kilometres northwest of Prince Rupert, B.C., part of a larger borough that numbers some 13,000 people.

The Royal Princess cruise ship, seen here at a port call in Prince Edward Island in 2018. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The local tourism authority says over one million passengers passed through the town in 2018.

Royal Princess, according to the cruise line, is on a seven-day journey from Vancouver that was scheduled to arrive in Anchorage on May 18.

Cindy Cicchetti, a Royal Princess passenger, said 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.

It’s not known if any Canadians were involved in the crash. Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to an email from CBC News. 

Weather conditions in the area on Monday included high overcast skies with 14 kilometres per hour southeast winds.

Kiffer said search and rescue crews planned to work until darkness and then pick the search back up Tuesday morning.

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