A recovery crew on Friday reached a remote site in southeast Alaska where a sightseeing plane crashed, killing all nine people aboard.
Chris John of the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad said the aircraft was sitting at a steep angle and three members from his organization had to secure it so they could safely work to recover the bodies.
Eight cruise ship passengers and the pilot died when the DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprop went down Thursday in Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation.
The identities of those on the plane were being withheld while authorities worked to notify their families. Their remains will be taken to the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage.
The plane crashed on a cliff above a lake in steep, muddy and slippery terrain, John said. The fuselage was largely intact but the wings and tail were separated or heavily deformed, he said.
On Thursday, the Coast Guard received a report that the plane was overdue. An emergency locator transmitter activated and a helicopter pilot later spotted the downed aircraft.
Wind and rain prevented any recovery Thursday. Winds were not a concern Friday but there was cloud cover.
A National Transportation Safety Board team was assembled to investigate the crash. Plans were being made to take them to the site on Saturday, John said.
Ketchikan-based airline Promech Air operated the shore excursion offered through Holland America Line. The eight passengers were traveling on the Westerdam on a seven-day cruise that had departed Seattle last Saturday.
“We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those onboard the plane and their families,” Holland America said in a statement.
The airline echoed those sentiments.
“There is nothing I can say that can alleviate the pain and overwhelming sense of loss that we and the loved ones of those affected are feeling,” Marcus Sessoms, president of Promech Air, said in a statement.
The ship left Ketchikan Thursday night and was expected back in Seattle on Saturday.
Promech’s website advertises tours of the more than 3,000-square-mile Misty Fjord National Monument in its floatplanes.
“Towering granite cliffs, 1,000-foot waterfalls, lush and remote valleys and serene crystalline lakes make up this incredible landscape,” it says.