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Alaska Sightseeing Plane Flew Into Cloudy Valley Before Crash That Killed Six

Newsweek logo Newsweek 8/26/2021 Anders Anglesey
a plant in a forest: The pilot crashed into a tree while carrying five passengers on a sightseeing tour. In this photo shared in a National Transportation Safety Board Aviation report released on August 25, 2021, the plane can be seen at the crash site. © National Transportation Safety Board Aviation The pilot crashed into a tree while carrying five passengers on a sightseeing tour. In this photo shared in a National Transportation Safety Board Aviation report released on August 25, 2021, the plane can be seen at the crash site.

A sightseeing plane carrying five cruise guests as well as a pilot crashed after flying into a valley with low clouds, according to testimony released in a preliminary report.

On August 5, a Southeast Aviation de Havilland DC-2 Beaver departed with passengers from the Holland America Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam on a sightseeing flight in southeast Alaska.

The plane smashed into a tree in the forests of the Misty Fjords National Monument region at around 10:50 a.m., some 70 minutes after it departed from Ketchikan, killing all on board.

It had been the pilot's second flight of the day, with the earlier one taking place at about 9:39 a.m.

Other pilots who had flown passengers near to where the plane crashed told investigators they had seen low-hanging clouds earlier that morning.

The National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident preliminary report said the clouds were as low as 600ft.

It added: "Pilots who were assisting with the search and rescue efforts reported that the weather was overcast and the mountain tops were obscured.

"In addition, the clouds were as low as 600-800 ft overcast above ground level in some of the valleys, including the valley of the accident location."

The report added the Beaver smashed into the tree at an altitude of about 1,750ft.

Images of the crash site included in the report found the plane had been severely damaged on impact and was found 435ft from the tree it impacted.

The crashed plane was found at about 11:20 a.m. that morning and United States Coast Guard rescuers reached the site later that afternoon.

When they arrived rescue crew members found no survivors, the report concluded. Foggy conditions also delayed the crews from retrieving the plane.

Following the crash, Southeast Aviation shared a statement, which read: "Our hearts are shattered at the loss of six people today. We are thinking of and grieving with the families of the five passengers and our dear friend and pilot aboard the aircraft."

On its website, Southeast Aviation says it offers sightseeing tours to Misty Fjords National Monument and bear-viewing sites, along with air charters to other communities in southeast Alaska.

Ketchikan is a popular location for cruise ships visiting Alaska with passengers taking part in sightseeing tours while the vessel is docked in port.

The small plane flights are used by groups to fly above the Misty Fjords National Monument, where visitors can see glacier valleys, snow-capped peaks and lakes in the wilderness area.

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