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Alaska Sightseeing Plane Crash Near Ketchikan Kills Six

Propeller Plane

A sightseeing plane crash outside of Ketchikan, Alaska killed six people on Thursday. Five of the deceased were passengers from the Nieuw Amsterdam, a Holland America Line cruise ship docked in Ketchikan on Thursday. The seven-day cruise, which began in Seattle, Washington on Saturday, was nearing its end when tragedy struck.

According to KTUU News, emergency officials received an alert at approximately 11:20 a.m. local time signaling that a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane owned by Southeast Aviation was missing. The U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad joined Alaska State Troopers in the search for the downed sightseeing plane.

A Coast Guard helicopter located the plane crash wreckage at approximately 2:40 p.m. local time in the Misty Fjords National Monument wilderness area, a popular destination for sightseeing planes. Rescue swimmers pronounced all six of the plane occupants dead at the scene.

According to the Coast Guard, there was light rain and mist in the area, as well as moderate winds, and two-mile visibility.

Holland America Line issued a statement after the fatal crash confirming the fatalities. The statement also noted that the cruise ship passengers who perished were on an “independent tour not sold by Holland America Line.” The cruise company delayed the scheduled departure for the Nieuw Amsterdam and set up counseling services for passengers and crew.

Ketchikan is a very popular tourist destination for cruise ships in Alaska, and sightseeing plane rides offer breathtaking views of the waterways in the area. In 2019, two small sightseeing planes collided mid-air, killing six of the 16 people aboard both aircraft. Aviation attorneys from Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman are actively pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of surviving family members stemming from this preventable accident; that lawsuit stems from a mid-air collision between a de Havilland Beaver and a de Haviland Otter near the same region as this current crash.

De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver Plane

The de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver—the type of plane involved in Thursday’s fatal crash in Alaska—is a single-engine, propeller-driven short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft. The Bureau of Aviation Accident Archives lists 345 total accidents for the DHC-2. These crashes have killed 733 people.

Just weeks ago, a DHC-2 skydiving plane in Sweden crashed and killed nine people, the most-deadly DHC-2 crash in history. Officials say the de-Havilland Beaver crashed and caught fire shortly after taking off. The cause of the crash remains unknown.

Southeast Aviation | Alaska Sightseeing

Southeast Aviation is a Ketchikan-based business that provides tours and air charters in Alaska. The company offers tours of the Misty Fjords, bear tours, and fishing tours. It also offers air taxi chartered flights to and from Juneau, Kake, Kosciusko Island, Metlakatla, Petersburg, Prince of Whales Island, Sitka, and Wrangell.

The last reported aviation accident involving a Southeast Aviation plane was in 2012 when one of its DHC-2’s crashed in Port Johnson, Alaska, injuring the pilot and a passenger. Authorities determined that the “pilot's decision to depart in marginal visual meteorological conditions, and his continued visual flight into instrument meteorological conditions” caused the 2012 crash.

What Caused the Sightseeing Plane Crash That Killed Holland America Line Passengers?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will lead the southeast Alaska crash investigation. A report on the cause of the Alaska plane crash is expected within the next 12-18 months.

Aviation attorney Clay Robbins III, who has litigated several cases involving de Havilland planes, says authorities will be looking at several issues during the investigation.

“First, we have to know more about the actions of the pilot prior to this accident,” says Robbins. “Pilots in Alaska are known to be seasoned and well-trained, but even the best pilots face difficult odds if they have to overcome mechanical issues. That’s why investigators will be pouring through maintenance records to look for any irregularities or red flags that may have contributed to this crash.”

Board-certified trial attorney Ronald L. M. Goldman also has case experience representing victims of Alaska plane crashes. He echoes Robbins’ concerns about maintenance:

“These de Havilland Beaver planes are 50+ years old. Maintenance is important for all aircraft but especially so for these older ones. Companies that fly DHC-2’s have an obligation to ensure that they are airworthy, especially when flying passengers in Alaskan terrain. Failure to do so can lead to disaster.”

“When one considers that two disasters occurred involving the same model airplane in the same area a mere two years apart, it is difficult not to conclude that these tours represent a significant risk to the safety of tourist passengers.”

Aviation Accident Lawyers with Experience Representing Victims in Alaska Plane Crash Lawsuits

Aviation attorneys from the national law firm of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman have decades of experience litigating cases stemming from small plane crashes. We have successfully handled hundreds of wrongful death and injury claims on behalf of aviation accident victims and their families. Our team knows what it takes to uncover the root causes of small plane crashes, determine liability, and maximize compensation for our clients. Across all areas of practice, the firm has earned more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients.

Our track record in Alaska plane crash cases includes:

  • Helio Courier H-250 | Seward, Alaska plane crash (2019)
  • De Havilland Beaver and a float-equipped De Havilland DHC-3 | Ketchikan, Alaska mid-air collision (2019)
  • Cessna 172 | Eagle River, Alaska plane crash (1996)
  • Piper Saratoga - Island Air | Kodiak, Alaska plane crash (1995)
  • Cessna 150 | Upper Kalskag, Alaska plane crash (1992)

If you would like more information on pursuing a claim, the aviation accident attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman are here to help you. We offer free and confidential case evaluations. Contact us or call (855) 948-5098 today to speak with our legal team.


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