9 dead after sightseeing plane crashes near Alaska cliff
A sightseeing plane crashed in southeast Alaska Thursday, killing all nine people on board, according to the company that operates the tours.
The plane was carrying the pilot and eight passengers from Holland America Line who were on a sightseeing tour of the Misty Fjords, which they booked through the cruise line. "There are no survivors," the plane's operator, Promech Air, said in a statement..
The crash occurred around 12:20 PT, about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska, according to Holland America.
A helicopter spotted the wreckage of the plane, which had been reported missing, against against the granite rock face of a cliff, 800 feet above Ella Lake, but rain and wind prevented the recovery of the bodies from the crash site, located in rough terrain.
"The initial rescue crew that went in had a very tough time because of the terrain," Clint Johnson, head of the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska office, told the Associated Press. "It's a very steep, mountainous area, and weather conditions caused them to stand down.'
Another attempt to reach the crash site will be made Friday, officials said.
Johnson it was too early to determine what caused the DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprop to crash, including if the plane flew into the cliff.
The NTSB is sending its Alaska "go-team" to investigate the crash, the agency said in a tweet. The team will include three members from Alaska and at least two people from Washington, D.C., according to AP.
The Coast Guard was informedt around 2:15 p.m. that the plane was overdue, Petty Officer Lauren Steenson told AP. An emergency locator transmitter activated in the Misty Fjords National Monument helped searchers spot the downed plane.
"There is nothing I can say that can alleviate the pain and overwhelming sense of loss that we and the loved ones of those affected are feeling," Marcus Sessoms, president of Promech Air, said in statement. "At this moment, all of us share the pain and anguish of this terrible event. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone touched by this tragedy."
The plane is one of five DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprops operated by Promech Air, which is based in Ketchikan.
The passengers were on a on seven-day cruise aboard the Westerdam, which left Alaska on June 20, Holland America said.
"We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the plane and their families," the cruise line said in statement. "Holland America Line is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved."
"To fully appreciate the vastness of the Misty Fjords National Monument, you must see it from the air," Holland America says in an advertisement for the excursion. "See sheer granite cliffs, 1,000-foot waterfalls, crystalline lakes and low-hanging mists on your flight from Tongass Narrows over Revillagigedo Island to Misty Fjords."
The names of the victims are being withheld until their families have been notified.
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