Anchorage, Alaska: At least five people are dead, one missing and 10 others injured after two planes carrying cruise passengers collided mid-air over Southeastern Alaska.
The planes operated by Taquan Air were returning passengers from the cruise ship Royal Princess from a shore excursion to Misty Fjords National Monument in Tongass National Forest.
One of the planes, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, was carrying five passengers and crew. Everyone on board this plane was killed in the crash, including the pilot.
The other plane, a de Havilland Otter DHC-3, carried 11 people. One person is in critical condition, three are in serious condition and six people are in fair condition. One is still missing.
The planes went down near the south eastern town of Ketchikan.
The Federal Aviation Association were not immediately sure about the circumstances of the collision.
“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 travelling companions of the guests involved,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.
A team of federal accident investigators is expected to arrive in Alaska Tuesday to try to piece together what caused the crash.
The Washington, D.C.-based investigative team from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to arrive in Ketchikan Tuesday afternoon, agency spokesman Peter Knudson said.
Local emergency crews worked with state and federal agencies and good Samaritan vessels to help rescue and recover victims.
“It’s been a long day and the crews have been working really hard to rescue people and recover the deceased,” Deanna Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, the local government, said Monday evening.
A spokeswoman for Taquan Air, operator of the Otter, said the company had suspended operations while federal authorities investigate the deadly crash.
“We are devastated by today’s incident and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families,” Taquan said in a statement.
Cindy Cicchetti, a passenger on the Royal Princess cruise ship told the AP that the ship captain announced that two planes were in an accident on Monday.
She said the ship is not leaving as scheduled and there weren’t any details as to how the accident will affect the rest of the trip.
The ship left Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 11 and is scheduled to arrive in Anchorage on Saturday.
A spokeswoman for the Ketchikan flightseeing company said Taquan has suspended operations while federal authorities investigated the deadly crash.