JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Six people who were killed in a sightseeing plane crash were recovered and identified after crews initially struggled to reach the wreckage in southeast Alaska due to poor weather conditions.
Alaska State Troopers identified the pilot and five passengers late Saturday following the crash.
The aircraft went down as the pilot was returning the passengers to Ketchikan from Misty Fjords National Monument.
The passengers who died were Mark Henderson, 69, and Jacquelyn Komplin, 60, both of Napa, California; Andrea McArthur, 55, and Rachel McArthur, 20, both of Woodstock, Georgia; and Janet Kroll, 77, of Mount Prospect, Illinois. The pilot was Rolf Lanzendorfer, 64, of Cle Elum, Washington.
All five passengers were on an excursion off the Holland America Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam. Ketchikan is a popular stop for cruise ships visiting Alaska, and cruise ship passengers can take various sightseeing excursions while in port.
Popular among them are small plane flights to Misty Fjords National Monument, where visitors can see glacier valleys, snow-capped peaks and lakes in the wilderness area.
The plane’s emergency beacon was activated about 11:20 a.m. Thursday when it crashed near the monument, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
A helicopter company reported seeing wreckage on a ridgeline in the search area, and Coast Guard crew members found the wreckage around 2:40 p.m. A Coast Guard helicopter lowered two rescue swimmers to the site, and they reported no survivors, the agency said.
However, poor weather and deteriorating visibility hampered early efforts to recover the bodies. Alaska State Troopers and members of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad made it to the crash site Saturday afternoon via a chartered Temsco helicopter.
The bodies of the six people who died will be taken to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage, the troopers said.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration was also investigating.