The bodies of two missing people from a pair of sightseeing planes that collided off the coast of Alaska were found on Tuesday evening, the Coast Guard said, bringing the total number killed in the accident to six. All 14 passengers on the two planes came from the cruise ship Royal Princess, which was on a seven-day trip from Vancouver, B.C., to Anchorage.
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter found the two bodies near the crash site of a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver float plane, which was carrying four passengers and a pilot; everyone from that plane perished in the accident, as well as one person from the de Havilland DHC-3 Otter that collided with it.
“We are deeply saddened to report this news and our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives and the families impacted by today’s accident,” Princess Cruises said in a statement.
The two planes collided Monday at 1:08 p.m. local time, according to Princess Cruises, about eight nautical miles off Ketchikan, Alaska.
Late on Tuesday, the Alaska State Troopers identified those killed as Randy Sullivan, 46, a pilot from Ketchikan, Alaska; Simon Bodie, 56, from Tempe, Australia; Cassandra Webb, 62, from St. Louis; Ryan Wilk, 39, from Utah; Louis Botha, 46, from San Diego; and Elsa Wilk, 37, from Richmond, B.C.
“We have been in regular contact with the family members throughout our search efforts,” Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau commander, said in a release. “This is not the outcome we hoped for and extend our deepest sympathies during this very difficult time.”
One plane, an Otter seaplane operated by Taquan Air, was carrying 10 guests from the cruise ship as well as a pilot, returning from a tour of the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument. The other aircraft, the Beaver seaplane operated by an “independent tour,” according to the cruise line, carried four Royal Princess passengers and a pilot.
The Beaver appeared to have crashed on a steep rocky shoreline, partially submerged upside down in seawater, volunteer rescuer Chris John told the Anchorage Daily News.
U.S. Coast Guard planes and vessels scrambled a rescue mission after the crash, sending an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and two 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crews from its base in Ketchikan.
The 10 rescued passengers were being treated at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, USA Today reported, and one of those patients was in critical condition.
With two people still missing after the initial rescue operations, Coast Guard crews and local good Samaritans searched for 27 hours in an area of 93 square nautical miles, the Coast Guard said.
“In a remote area such as this, given our limited resources, we rely on our partner agencies and appreciate the support that good Samaritans have rendered to this point,” Capt. White said.
The Coast Guard said it is “unaware” of why and how the planes collided. The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team to Alaska to investigate the crash, and Alaska State Troopers will complete investigations into the deaths.
In a statement, Taquan Air said it was “devastated” by the incident and suspended all scheduled flights as it cooperates with investigators, the Daily News reported.
Monday’s collision was the second crash involving Taquan in the area in the past year. In July, after a plane crashed into a mountainside, investigators concluded a pilot turned off a warning system that alerts to such collisions, the Daily News reported. All 11 people onboard survived, though some of them suffered serious injuries.
A 2015 crash in the same area was eerily similar to Monday’s incident.
A plane with cruise line passengers crashed into a mountain while returning from the Misty Fjords National Monument, killing all eight passengers and the pilot. Lax standards and flying despite poor weather led to the crash, investigators concluded, according to the Daily News.
The plane was operated by Promech Air. It was bought by Taquan the next year.
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