At least three people are dead after two floatplanes with a total of 16 people on board collided midair and crashed Monday afternoon in the George Inlet area near Ketchikan. At least ten of those people survived.
U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Matthew Schofield said Monday afternoon that rescue crews are searching for the three who are still missing.
“Right now, we know there’s 10 people that are accounted for and they are receiving medical care,” Schofield said. “The extent of their injuries right know is unknown. We do know now that three people are confirmed deceased, and we are looking for three unaccounted for people right now.”
According to a news release from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, the patients suffered “severe to life-threatening” injuries.
Earlier Monday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said that they received notice of the accident a little before 1 p.m.
“We immediately launched multiple assets to include an MH-60 from Air Station Sitka, which is one of our helicopters, along with two small boats from Coast Guard Station Ketchikan,” Rios said.
Rios says the small boats were on scene along with local rescue crews and good Samaritans looking for anyone in the water.
Rios says the cause of the accident is unknown.
“We don’t know if the incidents were – if one had a hand in the other. We don’t know,” Rios said. “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.”
Jerry Kiffer of Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad told KRBD that the DeHavilland Beaver and Otter both were in the water when rescue crews arrived at the scene.
“Both of them were near shore: One on one side of George Inlet, one on the other side,” Kiffer said.
Kiffer says the Beaver was upside down in saltwater near the beach close to Mahoney Lake. Crews hadn’t been able to determine whether anyone is inside, and no passengers were found nearby. The Otter was on the other side of the inlet.
“At that point, there was 10 patients on the beach and I believe that’s all there was in that aircraft,” Kiffer said.
Kiffer says there were various injuries among those passengers. He says some were taken to town by an Allen Marine boat. Others were taken to town by helicopter, and then to the hospital by ambulance.
Kiffer says it’s not yet known how many people were on board the Beaver. A DeHavilland Beaver can carry up to eight, including the pilot.
Kiffer declined to identify which airlines own the planes.
There were rumors of a helicopter crash in the Mahoney Lake area at the same time. Kiffer says that is just a rumor.
In addition to the Coast Guard and KVRS, all three local fire departments, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are assisting in the rescue efforts.
Last summer, a Taquan Air plane crash landed on its way to Ketchikan from Prince of Wales Island. All 11 on board survived. In June of 2017, seven people survived an Alaska Seaplane Tours floatplane crash in Misty Fjords National Monument.
In 2015, nine people died when a Promech Air tour plane went down in Misty Fjords.
Floatplane tours of the monument are a popular shore excursion for summertime visitors. On Monday, about 11,000 cruise passengers were in Ketchikan.
This is a developing story; check back for updates.
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