At least four people are dead after two floatplanes with a total of 16 people on board crashed Monday afternoon in the George Inlet area near Ketchikan. At least ten of those people survived.
U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Matthew Schofield said Monday afternoon that rescue crews are searching for those who are still missing.
“Right now, we know there’s 10 people that are accounted for and they are receiving medical care,” he said. “The extent of their injuries right now is unknown.”
According to a news release from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, the patients suffered “severe to life-threatening” injuries.
Earlier Monday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said that they received notice of the accident a little before 1 p.m.
“We immediately launched multiple assets to include an MH-60 from Air Station Sitka, which is one of our helicopters, along with two small boats from Coast Guard Station Ketchikan.”
A Coast Guard news release states that preliminary reports indicate the crash was the result of a mid-air collision.
Jerry Kiffer of Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad told KRBD that the DeHavilland Beaver and Otter both were in the water when rescue crews arrived at the scene.
“Both of them were near shore: One on one side of George Inlet, one on the other side,” he said.
Kiffer says the Beaver was upside down in saltwater near the beach close to Mahoney Lake. The Otter was on the other side of the inlet, with 10 people on shore nearby.
Kiffer says there were various injuries among those passengers. He says some were taken to town by an Allen Marine boat. Others were taken to town by helicopter, and then to the hospital by ambulance.
Kiffer declined to identify which airlines own the planes. According to a statement from Princess Cruise Lines, the Otter was operated by Taquan Air, and carried guests from the Royal Princess. The second plane was an independent tour and had four Royal Princess guests on board.
A statement from Taquan confirmed that one of the planes was theirs, and was returning from a Misty Fjords National Monument tour. It carried 10 guests and the pilot. Taquan has suspended flights while the crash is investigated.
There were rumors of a helicopter crash in the Mahoney Lake area at the same time. Kiffer says that is just a rumor.
In addition to the Coast Guard and KVRS, all three local fire departments, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are assisting in the rescue efforts.
Last summer, a Taquan Air plane crash landed on its way to Ketchikan from Prince of Wales Island. All 11 on board survived. In June of 2017, seven people survived an Alaska Seaplane Tours floatplane crash in Misty Fjords National Monument.
In 2015, nine people died when a Promech Air tour plane went down in Misty Fjords.
Floatplane tours of the monument are a popular shore excursion for summertime visitors. On Monday, about 11,000 cruise passengers were in Ketchikan.