Nine people died Thursday afternoon when the DeHavilland Otter floatplane they were traveling in went down near Ella Lake in Misty Fiords National Monument near Ketchikan.
The Promech Air floatplane was reported overdue at about 2 p.m. While rescue crews were getting organized, a Temsco helicopter located the plane on the side of a cliff.
Alaska State Troopers Spokeswoman Megan Peters says the plane was about 800 feet above the lake, against a rock face. She says rescue efforts were challenging.
“It’s a very difficult location. Terrain is exceedingly steep, it’s essentially a granite rock face,” she said. “So, there are definitely some challenges. Due to fears of triggering some kind of rock slide, we were attempting to have helicopters lower people down to look inside the wreckage to see what the situation was.”
Peters says rescue crews were able to reach the crash site at about 6 p.m., and confirmed that everyone on board had been killed. As of Thursday night, crews were pulled from the scene. Weather conditions made recovery efforts unsafe.
“So, we’re just going to be assessing the situation tomorrow, seeing what resources are available, and doing our best to body recoveries, to let these people go home,” she said.
Peters praised the efforts of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad.
“It really does come down to our local, trained volunteers that makes these things ultimately a success,” she said. “And we will be relying on them to help us with the body recovery efforts. Their experience and their willingness to help us, is just above and beyond.”
The identities of the pilot and eight passengers won’t be released until next of kin have all been notified.
The passengers all were from the Holland America Cruise Lines ship Westerdam, which stopped in Ketchikan during a seven-day tour of the Inside Passage. A statement from the cruise line expresses condolences to the families and friends of those killed.
Peters says Troopers will be investigating the crash, in partnership with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Promech is a Ketchikan-based company that offers flightseeing tours and charters. An employee who answered the phone at Promech says the company is not commenting at this time.
This report has been updated throughout.