KETCHIKAN, Alaska — Eight Holland America cruise ship passengers and their pilot were killed in a plane crash Thursday afternoon during an Alaskan fjord excursion when the DHC-3 Otter floatplane crashed into the side of a cliff.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the crash, said that the plane crashed in “an area of steep, mountainous terrain about 25 miles northeast of Ketchikan,” part of Misty Fjords National Monument.
The pilot of another Ketchikan-based charter and sightseeing airplane company first spotted the crash on a granite rock face about 800 feet above Ella Lake, Alaska state troopers said.
Promech Air of Ketchikan operated the airplane. The passengers came from Holland America’s MS Westerdam cruise ship, which had departed from Seattle, Wash., June 20 for a week-long cruise through the Alaska’s Inside Passage.
The Holland America passengers were residents of California, Idaho, Nevada, Maryland, and Oregon. The pilot, 63-year-old Bryan Krill, split his time between Alaska, Arizona, and Idaho. The Alaska Dispatch News reported that Mr. Krill flew recreationally since the 1970s but started flying commercially just two years ago.
NTSB officials said that a final report about the crash would take up to a year to complete, but that investigators were looking at several possible factors, including pilot training and the local weather at the time of the crash.
The local weather was marked by dense cloud cover, fog, and rain when the crash occurred. One pilot who was a passenger on the same cruise said he had disembarked from the same flight just an hour before the one that crashed. He told KIRO TV Seattle that he was “sure [the pilot] went into a cloud bank and just hammered the wall.”
A similar crash killed five passengers on another “flightseeing” tour of the Misty Fjords in 2007. The NTSB blamed that crash on pilot error and the Federal Aviation Administration’s inadequate regulation of flight tours in Southeast Alaska. The NTSB’s findings led it to make subsequent recommendations that called for weather monitoring cameras in the area and special weather training for pilots.
The Seattle Times reported that Holland America agreed to and settled out of court with plaintiffs who sued in the wake of a deadly tour flight crash in Mexico that killed 19 cruise passengers. According to the lawsuit, Holland America received “numerous complaints about the safety of previous flights” offered by the same company, including one that reported a door falling off of a plane midflight.