NTSB searches site of fa­tal Alaska tour plane crash

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION -

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — A team of avi­a­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tors is work­ing in a re­mote, moun­tain­ous site in south­east Alaska to de­ter­mine what caused the crash of a sight­see­ing plane that killed eight cruise ship pas­sen­gers and the air­craft’s pi­lot.

The DeHav­il­land DHC-3 Ot­ter tur­bo­prop, a float-plane, went down Thurs­day. The ex­cur­sion was sold through the cruise com­pany Hol­land Amer­ica.

Seven in­ves­ti­ga­tors with the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board made it to the crash site Satur­day morn­ing and were search­ing for clues to the dis­as­ter, said Clint John­son, head of the NTSB’s Alaska of­fice.

The plane was on its way back to Ketchikan from Misty Fjords Na­tional Mon­u­ment, a wilder­ness area of lakes, snow­capped peaks and gla­cial val­leys, John­son said. The ter­rain where the plane crashed is steep and moun­tain­ous, and of­ten buf­feted by strong winds and rain.

John­son said the air­plane’s wings and tail broke off dur­ing im­pact, but the fuse­lage was largely in­tact. Of­fi­cials said the plane crashed about 25 miles from Ketchikan on a cliff, 800 feet above Ella Lake in muddy ter­rain.

As for the pos­si­ble cause of the crash, “it’s way too early to spec­u­late,” John­son said. “We can’t spec­u­late out of re­spect to the fam­i­lies.”

The vic­tims’ re­mains were flown off the moun­tain on Fri­day. Eight were pas­sen­gers on the Hol­land Amer­ica Line ship Wes­ter­dam, docked in Ketchikan at the time. Their seven-day cruise had de­parted from Seat­tle on June 20.

Sally An­drews, a Hol­land Amer­ica Line spokes­woman, said by email that the cruise com­pany was “in­cred­i­bly sad­dened by this news and our thoughts and prayers are with the fam­i­lies and friends of those lost in this tragic ac­ci­dent.”

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