Nine people were killed when a sightseeing plane crashed into a cliff face in southeastern Alaska on Thursday. The deceased included eight cruise ship passengers and a pilot.
Clint Johnson, head of the Alaska office of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), confirmed the deaths.
“We have nine fatalities,” he said.
Johnson further added that recovery of the bodies off the cliff was made more difficult by the weather. Rescue operations will continue on Friday, he said.
According to CNN, the eight passengers were guests on the MS Westerdam, which is conducting a seven-day Inside Passage cruise that departed from Seattle on Saturday.
A high-level team was being put together by the NTSB to investigate the crash. This comprised of three members from Alaska and at least two members from Washington, D.C.
According to USA Today, Johnson said, “The initial rescue crew that went in had a very tough time because of the terrain. It’s a very steep, mountainous area, and weather conditions caused them to stand down.”
A report was received by the agency at 2:15 p.m. that said that a plane was overdue, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Lauren Steenson. An emergency locator transmitter activated in the Misty Fjords National Monument; the crashed plane was spotted above Ella Lake by a helicopter pilot.
The Ketchikan-based airline Promech Air ran the shore excursion, sold through Holland America Line.
In a written statement, Holland America Line said, “We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the plane and their families. Holland America Line is extending its full support to traveling companions of the guests involved.”
The Westerdam was to leave the city about 20 miles from the scene of the crash at 1 p.m. However, the cruise stayed in the port on Thursday evening.
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