5 dead after midair floatplane collision in Alaska

Five people are dead and one person is unaccounted for after two floatplanes carrying passengers from a cruise excursion collided mid-air in Alaska, according to the cruise line.

The two planes carried 14 passengers from a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of Vancouver, according to a statement Monday from Princess Cruises. Both planes collided mid-air about eight nautical miles from Ketchikan, Alaska, at the southeastern end of the state at about 1 p.m. local time.

“We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the planes and their families,” the cruise company said. “Princess Cruises is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved.”

An Otter floatplane with 11 people onboard was returning from a Misty Fjords tour while a second Beaver floatplane carrying five people was on an independent tour.

Four cruise goers and one pilot are dead after the accident, Royal Princess Cruises confirmed Monday.

The Coast Guard has dispatched helicopters and boats for search and rescue operations. The U.S. Forest Service and Alaska State Troopers have also responded to the scene.

Ten people involved in the crash were rescued by a passing ship named the Saint Innocent. Three of those rescued were in serious condition and one was critical, a local hospital told NBC News. The others were in fair condition.

Taquan Air, the company which operated the De Havilland Otter plane, said in a statement that it has suspended all flights.

“We are devastated by todays incident and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families,” Taquan Air said. “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.”

This is not the first crash the airline has been involved with. Eleven people were rescued in July last year after a Taquan Air operated plane crashed into mountainous terrain on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. In 2015, a sightseeing plane operated by the same company crashed and killed eight cruise ship passengers.

The Associated Press reported in 2007 that the pilot of a Taquan Air floatplane and four sightseers were killed in a crash over the mountains of Misty Fiords near Ketchikan.

NBC News