An aircraft carrying six cruise ship passengers in Southeast Alaska crashed Tuesday on the side of a steep mountain, killing a tourist from New Mexico. Alaska State Troopers were able to recover the tourist’s body a day after the accident.
Responders initially were unable to retrieve the body of 66-year-old Thomas L. Rising, of Sante Fe, N.M. On Tuesday, they rescued five survivors but left Rising's body inside the Pacific Wings de Havilland Beaver aircraft, which had come to rest near a precipice.
Troopers working with the Coast Guard, Juneau Mountain Rescue and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) finally retrieved Rising's body Wednesday evening, according to Megan Peters, a troopers spokesperson.
It took responders about four hours to secure the plane and recover the body, Peters said. The plane's wreckage rests on uneven ground; troopers used safety line and mechanical devices to secure the de Havilland, she said. Weather conditions also slowed the process.
Responsibility for recovering the mountainside wreckage falls to the plane owner's insurer, Peters said.
Troopers received a report Tuesday around 4 p.m. of the unaccounted-for de Havilland Beaver aircraft with seven on board, six tourists and a pilot. The six passengers, from the Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Sea Bird cruise ship, were touring over the LeConte Bay area near Petersburg.
Multiple aircraft responded to the area, and about three hours after the initial report, the Coast Guard located the plane’s wreckage about 1,000 feet above sea level near Thunder Mountain, 11 miles west of Petersburg.
Responders reported one fatality -- later identified as New Mexico resident Rising -- among the plane's occupants. The injuries of the remaining six survivors were serious but non-life threatening; the Anchorage Daily News reported one tourist had a broken back and another suffered a broken leg in the crash. They were flown to a Seattle Hospital.
The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.