Canadian among dead in collision of Alaska floatplanes

At least one Canadian citizen was among the four people killed in the mid-air collision of two sightseeing planes over open water in Alaska during daylight hours Monday.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and loved ones of the Canadian citizen who died in Alaska,” Guillaume Bérubé, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said in a statement Tuesday. “Canadian consular officials in Seattle are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and stand ready to provide consular assistance as required.

“To protect the privacy of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released.”

The nationalities of the others aboard the planes — 14 passengers and two pilots — have not yet been confirmed.

U.S. federal investigators are due in Alaska on Tuesday to try to find out why they collided. National Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected to arrive in the southeast Alaska town of Ketchikan, close to the scene of the afternoon crash, an NTSB official said.

The two aircraft went down over water about 40 to 48 kilometres northeast of Ketchikan, according to coast guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios.

Ten other people were injured, he said. Two are still reported missing.

‘Deeply saddened’: cruise operator

All 14 passengers on both floatplanes were from the cruise ship Royal Princess, which was on a seven-day trip from Vancouver to Anchorage and operated by Princess Cruises, the Washington Post reported.

Princess Cruises issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened to to report this news, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives and the families of those impacted by today’s accident.”

Betty Hill, a passenger currently on the Royal Princess from California, said the news was announced to cruise passengers around 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“The room turned completely silent. The response was somber. It was a very sad day,” Hill said.  “My hopes and prayers that they find the missing person[s] and the injured make a speedy and complete recovery.”

The crash site, at Coon Cove about 480 kilometres south of Alaska’s capital Juneau, lies near a tourist lodge that runs excursions to the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument.

One of the aircraft was a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver with five people aboard, and the other a de Havilland Otter DHC-3 carrying 11, Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer said.

The Ketchikan-based operator of the larger plane, Taquan Air, said its pilot and nine passengers were rescued and receiving medical attention, but one passenger’s fate was unknown. That group was returning from a flightseeing tour of Misty Fjords when the crash occurred, Taquan said.

Rios initially reported 10 survivors receiving medical care, with six other people from the two planes listed as unaccounted for. He later said four of the missing had been confirmed as dead.

Neither of the single-engine planes was under air traffic control when they collided, Kenitzer said.

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