Update: Four dead after two planes collided midair near George Inlet

Updated May 14, 12:45 p.m.

At least four people are dead after two floatplanes with a total of 16 people on board crashed Monday afternoon in the George Inlet area near Ketchikan. Preliminary reports indicate there was a mid-air collision between the two planes, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

At least 10 people survived the crash, and rescue crews continue to search for two people who are still missing as of Tuesday morning, according to a USCG statement. U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Matthew Schofield said the 10 people rescued Monday are receiving medical care.

According to a news release from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, the patients suffered “severe to life-threatening” injuries. Four of the survivors are being treated at Harborview Medical Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman. The patients — a 61-year-old woman, a 61-year-old man, a 63-year-old woman and a 67-year-old man — suffered injuries ranging from broken ribs to a fractured pelvis, arm and spine. While the women are in “satisfactory” condition, the man remains in serious condition in intensive care, according to the hospital.

On Monday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said that they received notice of the accident a little before 1 p.m.

“We immediately launched multiple assets to include an MH-60 from Air Station Sitka, which is one of our helicopters, along with two small boats from Coast Guard Station Ketchikan,” Rios said.

Rios says the small boats were on scene along with local rescue crews and good Samaritans looking for anyone in the water.

Jerry Kiffer of Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad told KRBD that the DeHavilland Beaver and Otter both were in the water when rescue crews arrived at the scene.

“Both of them were near shore: One on one side of George Inlet, one on the other side,” Kiffer said.

A Coast Guard Station Ketchikan 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew searches for survivors from downed aircraft in the vicinity of George Inlet near Ketchikan, Alaska, May 13, 2019. The Coast Guard, Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, good Samaritans and multiple other agencies have searched extensively and continue to search for survivors from the crash. Courtesy photo by Ryan Sinkey.

The Otter carried 11 people and was operated by Taquan Air, while the Beaver carried five people and was operated by Mountain Air, according to a Tuesday statement from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

Kiffer says the Beaver was upside down in saltwater near the beach close to Mahoney Lake. The Otter was on the other side of the inlet.

Kiffer says there were various injuries among those passengers. He says some were taken to town by an Allen Marine boat. Others were taken to town by helicopter, and then to the hospital by ambulance.

In addition to the Coast Guard and KVRS, all three local fire departments, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are assisting in the rescue efforts.

Last summer, a Taquan Air plane crash landed on its way to Ketchikan from Prince of Wales Island. All 11 on board survived. In June of 2017, seven people survived an Alaska Seaplane Tours floatplane crash in Misty Fjords National Monument.

In 2015, nine people died when a Promech Air tour plane went down in Misty Fjords.

Floatplane tours of the monument are a popular shore excursion for summertime visitors. On Monday, about 11,000 cruise passengers were in Ketchikan.

This is a developing story; check back for updates.

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