All nine people aboard a sightseeing plane died in a crash yesterday in southeast Alaska, authorities say, but stormy weather prevented the immediate recovery of the bodies. "We have nine fatalities," says Clint Johnson, head of the NTSB's Alaska office. Rain and wind forced an end to recovery efforts last night in the rugged terrain about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan. There was no immediate indication of why the DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprop crashed. It was found yesterday against the granite rock face of a cliff, 800 feet above Ella Lake. Johnson says it's too soon to know the circumstances of the crash, including whether the plane flew into the cliff.
A Coast Guard spokeswoman says the agency received a report around 2:15pm that the plane was overdue. Troopers say an emergency locator transmitter activated in the Misty Fjords National Monument, and a helicopter pilot spotted the downed aircraft above Ella Lake, about 800 miles southeast of Anchorage. An airline based in Ketchikan operated the shore excursion sold through Holland America Line, the cruise ship company said in a statement. The eight passengers were guests on the Westerdam, which is on a seven-day cruise that departed Seattle on Saturday. "We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the plane and their families," the cruise company's statement said.