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Poor weather conditions hampering recovery efforts following deadly plane crash carrying 6 near Ketchikan

5 aboard the plane were passengers from a Holland America Line cruise ship
A photo of the Southeast Aviation plane that crashed Thursday. The photo is from a viewer who...
A photo of the Southeast Aviation plane that crashed Thursday. The photo is from a viewer who went on a trip with the company in 2019.(Heather Holt)
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 2:37 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 6, 2021 at 11:08 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The U.S. Coast Guard has reported there are no survivors from a plane that went down near Ketchikan on Thursday carrying six people, five of whom were passengers from a Holland America Line cruise ship docked in the Southeast Alaska town.

As of Friday morning, poor weather conditions and deteriorating visibility in the Ketchikan and Misty Fjords area are halting Alaska State Troopers and volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad from conducting any recovery efforts, according to AST Public Information Officer Austin McDaniel.

The Coast Guard in conjunction with state and local agencies began searching for the plane earlier Thursday after getting an emergency position indicating radio beacon alert from the plane, according to Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow. The alert went off at 11:20 a.m. in the area of the Misty Fjords National Monument wilderness area, according to a press release from the Coast Guard.

According to the release, the plane went down 8 miles northeast of Ketchikan. It was a de Havilland Beaver aircraft, which the Coast Guard said is registered to Southeast Aviation LLC in Ketchikan. Wadlow said the Coast Guard connected with the parent company, which confirmed six people are aboard.

A call to Southeast Aviation for comment was not returned by the time of publication.

The Coast Guard responded to the aircraft along with Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Forest Service and the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, according to the press release. Wadlow said the Coast Guard has sent the USCG Cutter Liberty to the area to investigate, as well as a boat crew from the Coast Guard station in Ketchikan and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the Coast Guard’s air station in Sitka.

The helicopter reached the wreckage just after 2:30 p.m., according to the press release, and lowered rescue swimmers who reported neither the pilot nor the five passengers had survived.

Their names have not yet been released.

The U.S. Coast Guard in conjunction with state and local agencies is searching for a plane...
The U.S. Coast Guard in conjunction with state and local agencies is searching for a plane carrying six people near Ketchikan.(Alaska's News Source)

“Poor visibility and deteriorating weather hampered aerial search efforts for part of the afternoon,” troopers wrote in an online dispatch report.

Five of the people on the plane were passengers from the Holland America Line cruise ship the Nieuw Amsterdam, according to an emailed statement from the company.

“The float plane excursion was offered by an independent tour operator and not sold by Holland America Line,” the statement reads.

Erik Elvejord, director of public relations for the cruise line, said the Nieuw Amsterdam was initially docked in Ketchikan but that it was set to depart around 6:30 p.m.

According to a second press release from Holland America Line, notifications of the passengers’ next of kin are underway by Alaska authorities. The company is making counseling services available to other guests and crew aboard the ship.

“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,” the release states.

The National Transportation Safety Board was made aware of the missing plane and will investigate the crash, said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB’s Alaska regional office. He told Alaska’s News Source that the NTSB monitored the search and rescue operations throughout the afternoon.

The crash site is in a “steep, mountainous area” near the Misty Fjords, according to the troopers’ dispatch report. Troopers and volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad are going to coordinate on recovering the six bodies from the crash site today and on Friday, troopers wrote.

“We are in the process right now of formulating and getting a team together,” Johnson said of the NTSB. “An investigator in charge from the Anchorage office will be headed to Ketchikan tomorrow, first thing in the morning, and there’ll be other people joining that team from the Lower 48.”

It’s too early to draw any conclusions about the crash, he said.

Southeast Aviation sent a statement Thursday evening through an Anchorage public relations firm.

“Our hearts are shattered at the loss of six people today,” the statement reads. “We are thinking of and grieving with the families of the five passengers and our dear friend and pilot aboard the aircraft. We are cooperating with the first responders and agencies involved, including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board and Alaska State Troopers. All of us share in the anguish of this tragic incident, and our prayers go out to all affected.”

This is a developing story that will be updated as information becomes available.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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