Coast Guard searching for plane with 6 on board in Alaska


JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard was responding Thursday to an emergency alert from a sightseeing plane with six people on board in the area around southeast Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument, a spokesperson said.

Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow said the Coast Guard received an initial notification around 11:20 a.m. The location of the emergency beacon put it in the Misty Fjords area, northeast of Ketchikan, he said.

The five passengers on the flight were from the Holland America Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam, the company said in a statement. The ship stopped in Ketchikan Thursday.

“The float plane excursion was offered by an independent tour operator and not sold by Holland America Line,” the statement said.

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 trips to Misty Fjords National Monument, where visitors can see glacier valleys, snow-capped peaks and lakes in the wilderness area.

In 2019, two sightseeing planes collided in midair, killing six of the 16 people on board the two planes.

The plane missing Thursday, a de Havilland Beaver, was owned by Southeast Aviation LLC, Wadlow said. A message left at the sightseeing company in Ketchikan was not immediately returned to The Associated Press.

The company on its website says it provides sightseeing tours to Misty Fjords National Monument and bear-viewing sites, along with air charters to other communities in southeast Alaska.

The Coast Guard was told by the plane’s operator that five passengers and a pilot were on board, Wadlow said.

Wadlow did not have details on when the plane took off.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Eli Teller told the Anchorage Daily News the signal was coming from around 1,400 feet over land and in the area of Buckhorn Lake.

Wadlow said Alaska State Troopers were taking over search and rescue coordination efforts. A low cloud ceiling in the area was hampering efforts by a Coast Guard helicopter to home in on the beacon, Wadlow said.

Clint Johnson, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board in Alaska, said his agency was awaiting results of search efforts by the Coast Guard and troopers. A message seeking comment also was sent to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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