The preliminary report into the cause of the float plane crash in Alaska last week that killed six people, including a B.C. woman, is prompting calls for new safety measures.
The U.S.-based National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its report Wednesday on the crash, which saw two float planes collide mid-air northeast of Ketchikan on May 13.
The pilot and four passengers from the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver operated by Mountain Air Service were killed, including Richmond resident Elsa Wilk and her Utah-based husband, Ryan Wilk.
Watch below: (Aired May 15) B.C. woman among those killed in crash of floatplanes in Alaska
One passenger from the larger de Havilland DHC-3 Otter operated by Taquan Air was also killed, while the pilot and nine passengers survived.
All 14 passengers on both sightseeing planes were from the Royal Princess cruise ship, on a seven-day trip from Vancouver to Anchorage which is operated by Princess Cruises.
The report says the planes were transporting passengers to Ketchikan from the Misty Fjords National Monument area 55 kilometres away.
The surviving pilot told the investigators that the flight was operating normally until he descended and was maneuvering the plane to show passengers a waterfall near Mahoney Lake.
That’s when he saw a flash on his left side before experiencing a “large, loud impact,” the report said.
Watch below: (Aired May 15) Canadian among 6 killed in midair collision in Alaska
“According to the pilot, the DHC-3 airplane then rolled right and pitched about 40 degrees nose down toward the water in George Inlet,” the report continues. “He stated that he was able to maintain some control and flare the airplane prior to impact [with the water].”
The pilot estimated the airplane went into the water “about five seconds” after the collision, which tore apart the smaller plane on impact.
Some passengers and bystanders helped the pilot evacuate other passengers from the aircraft and bring them to shore.
Neither plane was equipped with a “black box,” or cockpit voice recorder. Other components from both planes were recovered and sent to the NTSB laboratory in Washington, D.C., for further examination.
In a little more than a week following the crash, two more fatal collisions involving float planes have occurred in Alaska.
On Monday, a passenger and the pilot of a Beaver commuter floatplane — also operated by Taquan Air — were killed when the aircraft crashed in Metlakatla Harbor. Taquan has since voluntarily suspended operations until further notice.
In the latest crash, a 75-year-old man died after he became trapped inside a small plane that crashed in Prince William Sound on Tuesday.
The NTSB said the crashes underscore the need for greater safety measures for charter flights, which have been recommended in its latest “Most Wanted” list of transportation safety improvements.
Those recommendations include implementing safety management systems, recording and analyzing flight data and ensuring pilots receive controlled-flight-into-terrain avoidance training.
Watch below: (Aired May 15) Alaska plane crash: Two more bodies recovered
“A customer who pays for a ticket should trust that the operator is using the industry’s best practices when it comes to safety,” NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a statement.
“It shouldn’t matter if the operator has one airplane or 100. Travellers should have an equivalent level of safety, regardless of the nature of the flight for which they paid.”
No probable cause has been given for the May 13 crash, which will come at the end of the investigation. The NTSB said that could take between one and two years to complete.
Preliminary reports on the other two recent crashes in Alaska are set to be released in the coming days.
—With files from Rachel D’Oro, The Associated Press
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