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Cruise ship pax in midair crash of sightseeing floatplanes

May 15, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A fatal midair collision yesterday of two sightseeing floatplanes carrying Royal Princess passengers, killing six people and injuring eight, was the sixth fatal air-tour crash involving cruise ship passengers in Alaska in the past 12 years.

Two passengers – an Australian and a Canadian  – are still missing and feared dead. The pilot of each plane in yesterday’s crash was flying passengers to and from Ketchikan on tours of Misty Fjords National Monument in the nearby Tongass National Forest. Ketchikan faces the Inside Passage, a popular cruise route along Alaska’s southeastern coast.

All five people aboard one plane died. It was a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, the cruise line said. The other plane, a de Havilland Otter DHC-3, carried 11 people, 10 of whom were injured, some severely.

A de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane is the same type of aircraft that crashed in a Hawkesbury River inlet while flying back to Sydney Harbour on New Year’s Eve just before the start of 2018. That crash, still under investigation, killed all six aboard: five British tourists and the pilot.

The Princess Cruises statement said:

On Monday, May 13, 2019, at 1:08 p.m. local time, a small float plane operated by Taquan Air that was flying a shore excursion sold through Princess Cruises was involved in an accident approximately eight (8) nautical miles from Ketchikan, AK [Alaska]. 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.

 The U.S. Coast Guard and local search and rescue teams have confirmed that nine (9) of the guests on the Taquan Air plane have been rescued and are receiving medical attention with the condition of one (1) guest still unknown. It has also been confirmed there are five (5) fatalities from the independent air tour – four (4) Royal Princess guests and one (1) pilot. Princess Cruises has activated members of its Care Team to provide assistance to the families impacted by today’s accident.

 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. 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 11 and is scheduled to arrive in Anchorage on Saturday, May 18.

The planes crashed under unknown circumstances, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer stated.

A spokesperson for Taquan Air, which operated the plane carrying 11 people, told the publication the company would cancel flights while US federal authorities investigated.

Alaska has seen six fatal air-tour crashes involving cruise ship passengers in the past 12 years, according to a US federal investigator quoted by USA Today.

Below: Royal Princess (photo by Barry Skeates)

In 2015, a floatplane carrying passengers from Holland America Line’s Westerdam crashed into a mountain northeast of Ketchikan, killing all nine people aboard. Westerdam had docked in Ketchikan (a town known for its totem poles) during a seven-night Alaska cruise out of Seattle. See: Floatplane crash kills eight cruise passengers and pilot

After the 2015 crash, investigators determined the pilot had become disoriented in cloudy weather while his company pressured him to fly back so passengers could rejoin the cruise ship before it sailed, according to USA Today.

Written by Peter Needham

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