Five passengers from a Holland America Line (HAL) cruise were killed during a floatplane crash in Alaska over the weekend.
The passengers were travelling on board Nieuw Amsterdam for a seven-day Alaska cruise and decided to take a scenic plane ride while the ship was docked in Ketchikan, the cruise line has confirmed.
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said the plane, a single-engine DeHavilland DHC-2 Beaver, crashed around 11:19am on 5 August local time.
The Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, US Forest Service and Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad (KVRS) attended the scene and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew located the wreckage at 2:37pm.
The crew lowered two rescue swimmers to search the wreckage, but no survivors were found.
One pilot and five passengers were reportedly aboard the aircraft, which the Coast Guard said left from the Misty Fjords area at 11:20am.
HAL said it made counselling services available to guests and crew onboard Nieuw Amsterdam, which departed Seattle on 31 July and returned on 7 August.
The floatplane excursion was independently operated by Southeast Aviation and not sold by HAL.
Southeast Aviation posted a notice on its website advising it had suspended all flight operations “for the foreseeable future”.
“We are thinking of and grieving with the families of the five passengers and our dear friend and pilot lost in Thursday’s tragic flight incident,” the aviation company said.
“We are cooperating with the first responders and agencies involved, including the US Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Alaska State Troopers.
“All of us share in the anguish of this tragic incident, and our prayers go out to all affected.”
The NTSB’s Alaska chief, Clint Johnson, told Anchorage Daily News that it was too early to determine what caused the plane to go down, but local media has reported that low cloud coverage and bad weather made it difficult for first responders to find the wreck.
The Coast Guard noted weather conditions on scene were winds of eight miles per hour, with visibility of two miles, ceilings of 900 feet with a mist and light rain.