Two planes crash south of Ketchikan; Four Confirmed Dead, Two Still Missing
Reports to USCG Confirms Mid-Air Collision
By MARY KAUFFMAN
May 13, 2019
Coast Guard Sector Juneau Command Center watchstanders launched a Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and two 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crews from Coast Guard Station Ketchikan. According the the USCG, they are unaware of the circumstances of why the two aircrafts went down.
At 12:47 PM today, the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a reported boat crash in George Inlet. Rescuers did not discover there were two planes down until approximately 20 minutes into the incident.
According to information provided by Ketchikan Borough Information Officer Deanna Thomas, two float planes crashed at approximately the same time in George Inlet today within a mile and a half of one another. A total of 16 were on board the two planes.
An Otter float-plane with 11 individuals crashed in the Coon Cove area of George Inlet and a Beaver float-plane with 5 individuals crashed in the Mahoney Creek area.
Ten patients were transported earlier this afternoon to PeaceHealth Medical Center with severe to life-threatening injuries according to an official news release by the Ketchikan Borough.
As of approximately 9:00 PM, the Ketchikan Borough reported another victim had been recovered bringing the total to four deceased victims recovered by search and rescue throughout the afternoon and evening.
The search and recovery mission still continues for two more missing individuals.
The names of the passengers and companies involved are not being released at this time. Next of kin will require notification prior to the release of names.
The Ketchikan Borough has announced as of this evening, they will not be releasing details regarding the circumstances of the crashes at this time.
However, the U.S. Coast Guard stated in a late evening news release that preliminary reports to the Coast Guard indicate that this was a mid-air collision between the two planes.
"In a remote area such as this, given our limited resources, we rely on our partner agencies and appreciate the support that good Samaritans have rendered to this point," said Capt. Stephen White, Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander. "With the loss of life in this case, we know that the impact to Alaska is immense and our thoughts are with the community here."
According to a statement tweeted by Princess Cruises, a small float plane operated by Taquan Air was flying a shore excursion sold through Princess Cruises was involved in an accident approximately 8 nautical miles from Ketchikan. The flight was returning from a Misty Fjords tour and carried ten guests from Royal Princess and a pilot. A second float plane was also involved in an incident and was carrying four guests from Royal Princess on an independent tour. Little more is known at this time about the independent tour that crashed.
According to Princess Cruises tweet dated today at 1:08 PM local time," the U.S. Coast Guard and local search and rescue teams have confirmed that 9 of the guests on the Taquan Air plane had been rescued and receiving medical attention with the condition of one guest still unknown at that time. According to Princess Cruises, it was also confirmed there were 5 fatalities from the independent air tour, four were Royal Princess guests and one pilot. Princess Cruises has activated members of its Care Team to provide assistance to the families impacted by today's accidents." This tweet created confusion with numerous media sources reporting 5 fatalities and 2 still missing.
It was later confirmed by the Ketchikan Borough that 10 individuals were transported to PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center. Although Princess Cruises tweeted 5 fatalities, the Ketchikan Borough and the U. S. Coast Guard have only confirmed 4 deceased with 2 still missing as of late this evening.
Earlier today in a Taquan Air statement, “the Coast Guard and local search and rescue teams have confirmed that nine of the guests and the pilot on the Taquan Air plane have been rescued and are receiving medical attention with the condition of one guest still unknown.” Taquan Air is based in Ketchikan and was establised in 1977.
In its Tweet, Princess Cruises said, "We are deeply saddened to report this news and our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by today's accident. Princess Cruises is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved."
Royal Princess is sailing a seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise that departed Vancouver on May 11th and scheduled to arrive in Anchorage on May 18th.
The U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, U.S. Forest Service, Alaska State Troopers, Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, and Temsco are searching the area. The Ketchikan Fire Department and North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department are also assisting with the care and transport of patients. Allen Marine Tours, which was conducting a tour in the area, assisted with the transport of a number of patients waiting ambulances.
George Inlet Lodge also played a pivotal role in the rescue effort, serving as the base of operations for search and rescue.
More information will be provided as released to the public. An investigation will be ongoing.
In June 25, 2015, a de Havilland Otter float plane operated by Promech Air crashed near Ketchikan. The pilot and all 8 passengers perished. The flight was part of a sightseeing excursion of cruise ship passengers over the Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness.
In the 8 years preceding the 2015 accident, there were 4 fatal crashes involving cruise ship passengers on air tour flights in Alaska.
In July 2018, eleven (11) people were rescued after a float plane crashed 39 miles south southwest of Ketchikan on Prince of Wales Island. There were no fatalities.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the incident.
This is developing news and will be updated as more is learned.
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