A sightseeing plane smashed into a cliff in southeast Alaska on Thursday morning, killing all nine people on board, including the pilot. The DeHavilland DHC-3T Otter floatplane crashed along steep, mountainous terrain roughly 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan. It was the deadliest plane crash the state has seen in the last two years.
Eight of the victims were passengers aboard the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam, which was in the middle of a seven-day cruise that had departed on Sunday from Seattle. The plane was operated by Promech Air, an airline based in Ketchikan that offers shore excursions sold through Holland America Line.
Authorities say the plane took off Thursday morning for a tour of the 2-million-acre Misty Fjords National Monument, which is home to towering cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and crystal clear lakes. The landscape is only accessible by floatplane or boat.
The Coast Guard was notified of the plane’s disappearance at around 2:15 p.m. Officials said an emergency locator beacon was activated and a private helicopter pilot spotted the downed aircraft on a cliff high above Ella Lake.
The deceased remained on the steep cliff overnight as the recovery effort was stalled on Thursday due to weather. The Westerdam, which was scheduled to depart roughly an hour before the plane went missing, ended up docking in Ketchikan overnight.
At this time, authorities have not been able to publicly identify the victims. According to the Chicago Tribune, the cause of the crash is still the subject of investigation.
Alaska is an especially dangerous place to fly, with rugged terrain and challenging weather conditions. And while floatplanes are considered the lifeblood of the state in terms of transporting goods, tourists, and locals, they are also fragile and prone to fatal crashes.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a plane crash in Alaska, you need an experienced aviation attorney on your side. The aviation law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman can help you through this difficult time and fight for justice on your behalf.