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At least three dead, three missing in floatplanes collision, crash in Alaska

By
Allen Cone
A de Havilland Beaver floatplane, like the one pictured, collided with an Otter, with both crashing in the vicinity of George Inlet near Ketchikan, Alaska. Five confirmed fatalities -- four passengers from the cruise ship and the pilot -- were confirmed on the Beaver. And 10 people were injured and one missing on the Otter. Photo by Robert Frola/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons
A de Havilland Beaver floatplane, like the one pictured, collided with an Otter, with both crashing in the vicinity of George Inlet near Ketchikan, Alaska. Five confirmed fatalities -- four passengers from the cruise ship and the pilot -- were confirmed on the Beaver. And 10 people were injured and one missing on the Otter. Photo by Robert Frola/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

May 13 (UPI) -- Two floatplanes collided and crashed in southern Alaska on Monday afternoon, killing at least three people and injuring 10 others with three missing, the Coast Guard said.

Princess Cruises told KTUU-TV that at least five people died, including four passengers from the Royal Princess seven-day cruise and the pilot of the deHavilland Beaver. The other plane, a deHavilland Twin Otter, also included cruise travalers.

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The two aircraft were found in the vicinity of George Inlet near Ketchikan, the Coast Guard said in a news release. The area is close to British Columbia, Canada, and 285 miles south of Juneau.

Princess said all those who died were on what was described as an "independent" air tour.

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The deHavilland Twin Otter, which is marked as Viking Air and was flown by local flightseeing operator Taquan Air, included 10 passengers from the excursion sold through Princess and the pilot. One person's status on the plane is unknown.

As part of shore excursions, floatplanes visit the Misty Fjords National Monument.

Royal Princess departed Vancouver on Saturday and is scheduled to arrive in Anchorage at the conclusion of the seven-day cruise.

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The ship, with a capacity of 3,600 passengers, is among 17 operated by Princess Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Corp.

Ten people were hospitalized at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center. One was in critical condition, three people were in serious condition and six others were in fair condition, Mischa Chernick, a hospital official told KTUU-TV.

Jerry Kiffer of Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad told KRBD radio that both planes were near the shore, with one on one side of George Inlet and one on the other side.

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The Coast Guard could not determine why the planes were down.

"We don't know if the incidents were -- if one had a hand in the other," U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios told KBBD radio. "We don't know. That's all stuff we're looking into, but as of right now safety of life at sea is of the utmost importance so that's what we're focusing on."

Around 1:30 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard received notice of the downed plane about 40 minutes earlier, Rios told KBBD radio.

Officials dispatched the cutter Bailey Barco, an Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew. A HC-130 from Kodiak is flying in relief crews from Sitka and two Station Ketchikan 45-foot Response Boat-Mediums.

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The Coast Guard is relying on other agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Alaska Department of Fish and Game as well as the Ketchikan Fire Department, Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad and Alaska state troops. TEMSCO Aviation is also assisting.

"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," Capt. Stephen White, Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander, said in a Coast Guard news release.

Last summer, a Taquan Air plane crash-landed going to Ketchikan from Prince of Wales Island. All 11 on board survived. And in 2017, seven people survived an Alaska Seaplane Tours floatplane crash in Misty Fjords National Monument.

In 2015, nine people died in Promech Air tour plane that crashed in Misty Fjords.

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