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5 dead in mid-air floatplane crash over Alaska

A cruise ship company said five people died in a mid-air plane crash over southeast Alaska. A team of federal investigators is expected to arrive in Alaska on Tuesday to determine the cause of the crash.

Five people have died Monday after a mid-air collision between two floatplanes near Ketchikan, Alaska.

Four of those killed were on an air tour excursion from a Royal Princess cruise that left Vancouver Saturday, a public relations specialist with the cruise line said. The fifth person killed was the pilot flying a floatplane, a single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver.

The other plane was carrying 10 passengers from the Royal Princess. They were returning from a Misty Fjords tour. The U.S. Coast Guard rescued nine guests from the plane. The tenth person's condition is unknown. That plane is a single-engine de Havilland Otter DHC-3 operated by Taquan Air.

The Coast Guard reports that four people have died, two are missing, and 10 people were hurt. 

The floatplanes collided under unknown circumstances, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Allen Kenitzer said in an email. Floatplanes have pontoons mounted under the fuselage so they can land on water.

Three people rescued from the crash were transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. A hospital spokesperson said two of the patients are in satisfactory condition, while a third is in serious condition. A fourth patient is expected to arrive at the hospital after midnight.

A spokeswoman for the flightseeing company said Taquan has suspended operations while federal authorities investigate the deadly crash.

Credit: KTUU

"We are devastated by today's incident and our hearts go out to our passengers and their families," Taquan said in a statement.

The cruise line said the four guests killed in the crash booked the air tour independently. The crash happened just after 1 p.m.

"Princess Cruises has activated members of its Care Team to provide assistance to the families impacted by today's accident," Alivia Owyound, with Royal Princess cruises, said.

The cruise ship was sailing a seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise that left Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 11 and was scheduled to arrive in Anchorage on May 18.

Cindy Cicchetti, a passenger on the Royal Princess cruise ship told the AP that the ship captain announced that two planes were in an accident Monday. She said the ship is not leaving as scheduled and there weren't any details as to how the accident will affect the rest of the trip.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating. The investigative team from the NTSB is expected to arrive in Ketchikan Tuesday afternoon. 

Weather conditions in the area on Monday included high overcast skies with 9 mph southeast winds.

It's not the first time a major plane crash has occurred near Ketchikan, a popular tourist destination.

In June 2015, a pilot and eight passengers died when a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter operated by Promech Air Inc. crashed into mountainous terrain about 24 miles from Ketchikan. The NTSB later determined that pilot error and lack of a formal safety program were behind the crash.