The Westerdam Eight – Excursion Plane Crash, Westerdam Passenger, June 25, 2015, Time of Death 2:15.
The Westerdam Eight
Eight cruise ship passengers were all found dead after a Holland America Line Westerdam excursion plane, a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter small float plane crashed on Thursday June 25, 2015. about 20 miles from Ketchikan, Alaska.
The cruise ship Westerdam had departed Seattle on Saturday June 20, 2015 for a seven-day Inside Passage cruise in Alaska. The next port of call was suppose to be Ogden Point in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on June 26 at 6 p.m, but Westerdam didn’t embark on the next leg of the voyage as expected, instead remaining in port at Ketchikan.
After the United States Coast Guard (USCG ) received a report of a missing plane around 2:15, a helicopter was sent to search the flight path of the Promech Air sightseeing plane.
Promech Air advertises the excursion on their website as, “On Promech Air’s Misty Fjords Floatplane Tour, you will board one of our expertly-maintained and tour optimized floatplanes, taking off to soar above the city of Ketchikan and begin your flight seeing journey to the most enchanted region of the Inside Passage.” Promech said that the crash happened about 11:20 a.m., and the plane was one of five Otter aircraft in its fleet
Wreckage was sighted on the ground against a granite rock face of a cliff, 800 feet above Ella Lake, but weather conditions prevented a search by land for survivors. Alaska State Troopers identified the victims as: Hal Cheney, 71, Lodi, California, Mary Doucette, 59, Lodi, California; Glenda Cambiaso, 31, North Potomac, Maryland, Hugo Cambiaso, 65, North Potomac, Maryland; June Kranenburg, 73, Medford, Oregon, Leonard Kranenburg, 63, Medford, Oregon; Margie Apodaca, 63, Sparks, Nevada, Raymond Apodaca, 70, Sparks, Nevada; and the pilot, Bryan Krill, 64, of Hope, Idaho.
National Transportation Safety Board Investigation
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesman said that search crews found the “wreckage” in very remote, steep terrain. The NTSB began assembling a team of investigators who will look into the deaths of the Westerdam Eight and their pilot, which will include a few local Alaskans and a team from Washington DC.
The NTSB investigation statews, “When the airplane failed to return to Ketchikan, the operator initiated a search for the missing airplane and heard an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal along the accident pilot’s anticipated route of flight. A helicopter from Temsco Helicopters, Inc., of Ketchikan, was dispatched to the suspected accident site to search for the missing airplane. However, the helicopter pilot said that he was unable to search the upper levels of the mountainous areas due to low ceilings and poor visibility. The helicopter pilot said that, after waiting for the weather conditions to improve, he was able to search the upper elevations of the search area and located the wreckage about 1429. The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad (KVRS) team members reached the accident site and confirmed that the airplane’s occupants had sustained fatal injuries.
The NTSB investigator-in-charge along with another NTSB investigator, with help from KVRS, reached the accident site on the morning of June 27. The airplane impacted trees and a near vertical rock face in a nose high, wings level attitude at an elevation of about 1,600 feet mean sea level and came to rest upright on top of its separated floats, in an area of heavily forested, steep terrain. The accident airplane was equipped with an avionics package known as automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B), which is also known as “Capstone.” ADS-B technology provides pilots with situational awareness by displaying the airplane’s position over terrain, while using GPS technology, coupled with an instrument panel mounted, moving map display. The ADS-B equipment installed in the accident airplane included two Chelton multifunction display (MFD) units. One MFD provides the pilot with a moving map with terrain awareness information, and the other provides primary flight display information. The two MFD units were removed from the wreckage and shipped, to the NTSB vehicle recorder laboratory, Washington, D.C.
The accident airplane was equipped with a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135A engine that produces 750 shaft horsepower. A comprehensive NTSB post accident examination of the engine and airframe is pending, after the airplane wreckage is recovered to Ketchikan. The closest weather reporting facility is Ketchikan Airport (KTN), Ketchikan, AK, about 24 miles southwest of the accident site. At 1153, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at KTN reported in part: wind 130 degrees at 15 knots, gust 23 knots; visibility 6 statute miles, rain and mist, runway 11 visual range 4,000 variable to greater than 6,000 feet; few clouds 800 feet, broken clouds 1,200 feet, overcast clouds 2,700 feet; 61 degrees F; dew point 57 degrees F; altimeter 29.91 in Hg.”
The search and rescue (SAR) was hampered by poor weather in Alaska which had just entered a period of 24 hours of visible sun during the summer solstice which begins approximately June 21 every year.
The last time a single cruise ship saw this many deaths during a cruise port excursion was on Wednesday March 18, 2015, when two cruise ships, MSC Splendida and Costa Fascinosa were in port at Tunis, Tunisia on a cruise ship excursion to the Bardo National Museum, when a group of terrorists opened fire on the group who were exiting their tour buses, killing or wounding more than 50 cruise ship passengers. Cruise ships immediately quit calling at Tunis. See Cruise Port and Ship Crime Reports for cruise ship excursion incidents involving numerous cruise ship passengers.