Tourism & Cruises

5 Princess Cruises passengers and 1 pilot dead after excursion planes collide in Alaska

Five Princess Cruises passengers and one pilot died after two excursion floatplanes collided near Ketchikan, Alaska, on Monday.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 10 people from the crash. All passengers aboard both planes were traveling on the Royal Princess cruise ship on a seven-day cruise from Vancouver, Canada, to Anchorage, Alaska.

Princess Cruises is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.

One of the planes, operated by Taquan Air, was carrying 10 American passengers from the Royal Princess cruise ship and one pilot. Nine passengers and the pilot survived; one passenger did not. The nationality of the pilot was not immediately known. The plane was on a sightseeing tour to Misty Fjords sold through Princess Cruises.

A Coast Guard Station Ketchikan crew searches for survivors from downed aircraft in the vicinity of George Inlet near Ketchikan, Alaska, May 13, 2019. The Coast Guard, Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, good Samaritans and multiple other agencies have searched extensively and continue to search for survivors from the crash. Courtesy photo by Ryan Sinkey.

The other plane, a private charter sightseeing excursion with Mountain Air Services, was carrying four Royal Princess cruise ship passengers and one pilot. Four passengers and the pilot died. Two of the passengers were Americans, along with the pilot. One passenger was Canadian and another was Australian.

All who survived were in fair or good condition, Marty West, a spokeswoman for PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, told The Associated Press.

A Royal Princess passenger reported on the Cruise Critic forum that the captain of the ship sent a letter to passengers with information about the crash early Tuesday. The ship is continuing to its next scheduled stop of Juneau.

Cruise Critic user nick659 posted on the public forum early Wednesday this letter he said he received from Princess Cruises as a passenger on the Royal Princess ship. Three Royal Princess cruise ship passengers and one pilot were confirmed dead after two excursion planes collided near Alaska Monday. Cruise Critic

“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. We immediately activated our Princess Care Team employees in the region and sent additional team members to Ketchikan overnight to assist the families impacted,” said Brian O’Connor, a spokesman for Princess Cruises, in a statement.

A team of federal accident investigators is expected to arrive in Alaska on Tuesday to try to piece together what caused the deadly midair collision.

A spokeswoman for Taquan Air told The AP that 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.

Mountain Air Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Weather conditions in the area on Monday included high overcast skies with 9 mph southeast winds.

It’s not the first time a major plane crash has occurred near Ketchikan, a popular tourist destination.

In June 2015, a pilot and eight passengers died when a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter operated by Promech Air Inc. crashed into mountainous terrain about 24 miles (39 kilometers) from Ketchikan. The National Transportation Safety Board later determined that pilot error and lack of a formal safety program were behind the crash.

This report was supplemented with material from The Associated Press.

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Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.