Poor weather hampers crash victim recovery efforts in Alaska

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Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad personnel land and disembark from a Hughes 369D helicopter on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, at Temsco Helicopters Inc in Ketchikan, Alaska. The KVRS, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers and U.S. Forest Service responded to a radio beacon alert from a downed Southeast Aviation de Havilland Beaver float plane that was carrying five passengers from the Holland America Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam, according to Coast Guard, Holland America and KVRS information. The sightseeing plane crashed Thursday in southeast Alaska, killing all six people on board, the U.S. Coast Guard said. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Poor weather conditions were hindering efforts to recover the bodies of six people who were killed when a sightseeing plane crashed in southeast Alaska, Alaska State Troopers said Friday.

The plane crashed Thursday as the pilot was returning five passengers to Ketchikan from Misty Fjords National Monument, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The plane’s emergency beacon was activated about 11:20 a.m. when it crashed near the monument, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

A helicopter company reported seeing wreckage on a ridgeline in the search area, and Coast Guard crew members found the wreckage around 2:40 p.m. A Coast Guard helicopter lowered two rescue swimmers to the site, and they reported no survivors, the agency said.

The victims have not been identified, and troopers were working with volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad to coordinate recovery efforts.

“Poor weather conditions and deteriorating visibility in the Ketchikan and Misty Fjords area have prevented the Alaska State Troopers and volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad from conducting any recovery efforts this morning,” troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel said in an email Friday to The Associated Press.

Victims won’t be named until they have identified them following recovery efforts, he said.

All five passengers were on an excursion off the Holland America Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam. The company was making counseling services available to guests and crew, it said in a statement.

The plane involved Thursday, a de Havilland Beaver, was owned by Southeast Aviation LLC.

“Our hearts are shattered at the loss of six people today. We are thinking of and grieving with the families of the five passengers and our dear friend and pilot aboard the aircraft,” the company said in a Thursday evening statement. “We are cooperating with the first responders and agencies involved.”

Ketchikan is a popular stop for cruise ships visiting Alaska, and cruise ship passengers can take various sightseeing excursions while in port.

Popular among them are small plane flights to Misty Fjords National Monument, where visitors can see glacier valleys, snow-capped peaks and lakes in the wilderness area.

In 2019, two sightseeing planes collided in midair, killing six of the 16 people on board the two planes.

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a crew to investigate the crash. The team is expected to arrive in Alaska later Friday.

The FAA is also investigating.

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Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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