Five people died and one person was missing Monday after two floatplanes collided mid-air in Alaska while carrying passengers from a cruise ship’s sightseeing expedition, officials said.
Emergency rescue operations were under way after the two aircraft carrying 14 passengers from the Royal Princess ship crashed near Ketchikan, a popular tourist spot on southern Alaskan cruise routes surrounded by fjords and dense forests.
Four passengers and a pilot were killed, Princess Cruises said in a statement circulated by US media.
Ten people were rescued and were receiving medical care. One of the wounded was in critical condition and three others were seriously injured, a spokesperson for Ketchikan Medical Center told a local CBS affiliate.
Local plane company Taquan Air, which operated one of the flights, said it was “devastated” by the news and was suspending all scheduled flights, according to the channel.
The US Coast Guard said it had confirmed so far that four people were dead and it was searching for two others near George Inlet, along with help from volunteers and agencies including the US Forest Service and Alaska state troopers.
Helicopters and boats were deployed by the Coast Guard for the search-and-rescue operation.
“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,” said Captain Stephen White, Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander.
“With the loss of life in this case, we know that the impact to Alaska is immense and our thoughts are with the community here.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was launching a “Go Team” to investigate the cause of the accident.
Multiple tour companies offer rides through the fjords around Ketchikan, in the southeasternmost part of Alaska, many of which include a water landing in a floatplane.
Monday’s crash involved a Beaver floatplane and an Otter floatplane, one of which was returning from a tour of the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument park.
In 2015, an Otter plane crashed into a granite rock face, killing all nine on board, near a lake in the Misty Fjords area.
And in 2007, five people were killed when a Beaver floatplane carrying tourists crashed in the same area.