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Several news sources in Alaska are reporting that two seaplanes (a/k/a floatplanes) involved in an excursion from the Royal Princess cruise ship crashed this afternoon in an apparent mid-air collision near Ketchikan.

Initial reports indicate that three cruise passengers died in the crash. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for three other people following the crash of the two planes in the George Inlet area. A total of 16 people were reportedly on the two planes, and 10 people are accounted for, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The article indicated that the guests involved came off the Royal Princess,  which left Vancouver on Saturday and is scheduled to return to Vancouver on May 25th after calling on several ports in Alaska.

Princess Cruises states that ten guests from the cruise ship and a pilot were in a floatplane operated by Taquan Air returning from a Misty Fjords tour. A second floatplane carrying four people from the ship on an independent tour was also involved in the accident. Ten patients were admitted to a hospital in Ketchikan.  According to its promotional information, Princess Cruises offers three floatplane excursions to its guests in Ketchikan:

  • KTN – 815 – A Discovery Exclusive – Misty Fjords Seaplane & Crab Feast;
  • KTN – 810 – Misty Fjords Wilderness Cruise & Flight; and
  • KTN – 800 – Misty Fjords National Monument by Seaplane (with Wilderness Landing).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the accident.

Four years ago, in June of 2015,  eight Holland America Line (HAL) cruise passengers were killed when the sightseeing airplane they booked through HAL crashed near Ketchikan, Alaska. The pilot of the charter plane and all eight cruise passengers from HAL’s Westerdam died when the plane crashed about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan. The aircraft reportedly hit the granite rock face of a southeast Alaska cliff. You can read the NTSB report regarding that accident here.

A cruise passenger, Kattey Ortiz, who was on another Princess Cruises ship in Ketchikan, recorded the message of the accident from the ship’s captain.

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May 15, 2019 Update: According to a news station in Alaska, a preliminary FAA report identifies the registered owner of the second seaplane involved in the collision (a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver) as Mountain Air Services LLC. Four Princess passengers were aboard this smaller seaplane operated by an independent tour operator.

May 16, 2019 Update: Profiles of the five cruise passengers and one of the pilots who were killed in the collision is detailed in this report from the Associated Press.

Photo credit: Princess Cruises – seaplane excursion.