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A search effort continues following a midair crash between two flightseeing planes carrying cruise passengers in Alaska that resulted in at least four fatalities.
A statement from Princess Cruises said that the crash, which occurred at 1:08 p.m. Alaska time on Monday, was between two small floatplanes and involved passengers from the Royal Princess ship during a call in Ketchikan.
One, operated by Taquan Air, was operating a Misty Fjords shore excursion sold through Princess and was carrying 10 passengers, plus a pilot. The other was operating an independent tour carrying four passengers from the Royal Princess, plus a pilot.
One person from the Taquan plane and three from the independent-tour plane were killed, Princess said. The U.S. Coast Guard Juneau Sector said it was continuing to search for the two other people from the independent-tour aircraft in the area of George Inlet near Ketchikan. Ten people were rescued and are receiving medical care, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard said it was coordinating a search with six different agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska State Troopers, and good Samaritans.
“With the loss of life in this case, we know that the impact to Alaska is immense, and our thoughts are with the community here,” said Capt. Stephen White, Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the incident, the Coast Guard said. An Associated Press report said the FAA will also be involved in the investigation.
The Royal Princess is operating a seven-day cruise from Vancouver to Anchorage. The ship departed Ketchikan about three-and-a-half hours late and will arrive in Juneau at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Princess said.
Princess said it activated its Princess Care Team employees in the area and sent additional members to Ketchikan to assist the families onboard the ship.
“All of us at Princess Cruises are deeply saddened by this tragic news, and we are extending our full support to the investigating authorities as well as the traveling companions of the guests involved,” said Brian O’Connor, a Princess spokesman.
There is a history of tourist plane crashes in the Ketchikan area. In 2015, a turboprop operated by Promech Air crashed in Misty Fjord, killing eight Holland America Line passengers and the pilot.
In 2007, two fatal small-plane crashes occurred within a month of each other near Ketchikan: a Taquan crash during a Misty Fjords tour that killed four Princess Cruises passengers and a pilot, and a Seawind Aviation plane that collided with terrain during a bear-viewing excursion; five Holland America Line guests died, and the pilot and three passengers survived.