4 dead, 2 missing: Search continues after midair collision near Ketchikan
The search for two people involved in the fatal midair collision into waters near Ketchikan on Monday continues, an updated statement from Princess Cruises said Tuesday.
The planes that collided Monday morning were carrying a total of 16 people. The Coast Guard confirmed late Monday night that four people died in the collision. Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said one person had been found during Monday's search and rescue teams were still looking for two others.
Princess Cruises originally stated that five people had died in the incident, but walked back that number in a clarified statement Tuesday morning, saying there were only three fatalities and that authorities "had recovered the last guest on the Taquan aircraft and were taking action to notify the family."
In another Tuesday morning update, Mischa Chernick with Ketchikan Medical Center confirmed that four people were taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle overnight.
Harborview spokesperson Susan Gregg said those four people, all in their 60s, are being treated for injuries ranging from fractures to their ribs, pelvis, arm and spine.
One 67-year-old man was transferred by Airlift Northwest and is listed in serious condition. He is being treated in intensive care.
The other three people are listed in satisfactory condition. According to Gregg, one 63-year-old woman was also transferred by Airlift Northwest. The others have only been identified as a 61-year-old woman and 61-year-old man who are married.
According to a spokesperson for Princess Cruises, four of the deceased are Princess cruise ship passengers who were flying on an independent tour. The spokesperson said in a statement Monday evening that the pilot was also killed.
The flight collided with a second float plane returning from a Misty Fjords tour. That plane was carrying 10 American guests from the same cruise, nine of whom have been rescued and are receiving medical attention.
Two of the guests, as well as the pilot, have been identified by Princess Cruises as Americans. The cruise line said one of the two missing guests is Australian, while the other is Canadian.
The National Transportation Safety Board had a press conference about the collision Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C.
According to NTSB officials, three investigators are headed to the crash site — two are from Anchorage and one is from the D.C. area. Two transportation disaster assistants will also be sent to help crash victims. NTSB said all officials are expected to be in Ketchikan by 2 p.m. AKST Tuesday.
Word of the Southeast Alaska crash, in the George Inlet area, reached the Coast Guard at about 1:30 p.m. Monday, according to Rios.
Weather conditions that day included high overcast skies with 9 mph southeast winds, according to the Associated Press.
A spokesperson with the Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft involved in the collision are a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver and a de Havilland Otter DHC-3.
"Neither aircraft were under air traffic control at the time," the spokesperson said. "The FAA and the NTSB are investigating."
According to a statement from Princess Cruises, the plane carrying 11 people was operated by Taquan Air. It was operating a shore excursion sold through the cruise line when it crashed about eight nautical miles from Ketchikan.
"The flight was returning from a Misty Fjords tour and carried ten guests from Royal Princess and a pilot," the statement said. "A second float plane was also involved in an incident and was carrying four guests from Royal Princess on an independent tour."
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.
In a statement from Taquan Air, a spokesperson says the company has suspended all scheduled flights and is cooperating with authorities investigating the event.
"We are devastated by todays incident and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families. At this time, we are in the midst of an active crisis response, and our focus is on assisting these passengers, the pilot, our staff, their families and loved ones, and first responders," the statement read.
Princess Cruises has activated members of its care team to provide assistance to its guests involved in the collision.
"We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the planes and their families," the statement said. "Princess Cruises is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved."
Chernick said the Ketchikan Medical Center was taking care of 10 crash victims on Monday. One was said to be in critical condition, with three in serious condition and six in fair condition. There was no word on which four of the ten were taken to Seattle. Coast Guard officials have not confirmed the conditions of those accounted for.
A helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Sitka as well as two Ketchikan-based Coast Guard vessels were involved in the rescue operation on Monday. Good Samaritans also responded to the area and people were being picked up from the area through the afternoon.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for the latest updates.
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