Our cruise ship accident attorneys often talk about the dangers that shore excursions can pose, due to the fact that cruise lines partner with outside tour operators, whose safety standards may be subpar. Many times, tour operators fail to properly maintain equipment, while other times, excursions are run by inexperienced guides. There are many factors that can contribute to a shore excursion accident, but no one ever imagines they will be hurt or lose a loved one while on a tour that’s intended to be fun. Sadly, the unthinkable has happened in Alaska.
Nine people were killed after the floatplane they were flying aboard crashed near Ketchikan, Alaska around noon on Thursday. According to news reports, the plane – a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprop – was carrying eight Holland America cruise passengers who were on a sightseeing flight tour over the Misty Fjords. None of the eight passengers nor the pilot survived.
The cause of the plane crash remains unknown as of now, though investigators speculate that unfavorable weather conditions may have played a role.
As it stands, heavy rain and wind created obstacles for the rescue mission earlier today. A helicopter originally spotted the wreckage on the face of a cliff roughly 800 feet above Ella Lake, but weather conditions prevented rescuers from reaching the crash site. Authorities scheduled a second rescue attempt for today.
Investigators are also uncertain as to whether the floatplane actually crashed or if it flew straight into the cliff. From our experience handling shore excursion accidents, a number of things could have happened. The plane may have suffered a mechanical malfunction or the pilot may have lost control due to the weather or may have even experienced a medical emergency. It’s hard to speculate as to the nature of the crash at this point, but unfortunately, as our cruise accident lawyers know all too well, a large number of shore excursion accidents result from tour operator negligence and lack of safety.
We sincerely hope that safety negligence was not the case in this terrible tragedy. But even if the accident was strictly weather related, why would the tour operator even allow the shore excursion to run in the first place if adverse weather conditions were present? Did the tour operator fail to check local weather reports prior to allowing the plane to take off with the Holland America cruise passengers? Did the pilot fail to notice the clouds and rain?
Floatplane shore excursions are extremely popular for Alaska cruises, offering fantastic views of the region’s beautiful wildness. With so many of these aerial tours taking place on a daily basis, it’s hard to believe that a tour operator would risk so many lives, instead of just cancelling the excursion or at least postponing it until the weather cleared up. If safety negligence is a factor, the families of the victims should consult with a cruise accident attorney, as they may be eligible to file a case.
The victims’ names have yet to be released, pending family notification. The eight passengers were on a seven-day cruise aboard the MS Westerdam. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ loved ones.