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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A 66-year-old New Mexico cruise ship passenger was killed when a small sightseeing plane in southeast Alaska crashed on the side of a steep mountain, Alaska State Troopers said Wednesday.
Thomas L. Rising of Santa Fe was among seven people aboard the Pacific Wings de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver that went down near the town of Petersburg on Tuesday. The other five passengers aboard the single-engine floatplane were members of the same family and also traveling on the same National Geographic cruise ship, according to Clint Johnson, head of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska regional office. He didn’t know the family’s hometown or age range.
According to Los Alamos National Laboratory, Rising was a research and design engineer and he had been in that position for approximately the past 13 years .
USA Today reported that Rising took the flight by himself while wife remained on the cruise ship.
Two family members were seriously hurt, one with a broken back and one with a broken leg. The four other people, including the pilot, had minor injuries.
A Coast Guard helicopter crew rescued the survivors and flew them to Petersburg, 13 miles from the crash site near Le Conte Glacier. The two people who were seriously injured were flown to a hospital in Seattle, according to statement released by Lindblad Expeditions, an expedition travel company that has an alliance with National Geographic in the eight-day cruise aboard the 62-passenger Sea Bird.
Lindblad spokeswoman Patty Diskin-Cahill said the crash occurred on the third day of the excursion. She said it was company policy not to release the names or hometowns of its passengers.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy,” the company statement said. “Our thoughts are with the people involved in this accident and their families.”
Johnson said the three passengers related to the seriously injured people also flew to Seattle to meet up with them.
Johnson described the crash site at the 1,000-foot level of the mountain as very treacherous, unstable and steep.
“It is a very challenging area,” he said.
Johnson said efforts to recover the body began Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson said the pilot and passengers have not yet been interviewed, and he said he didn’t know what the weather conditions were when the plane went down. The weather in the region can vary widely.
Petersburg-based Pacific Wings is owned by Dave Galla, who said the pilot, Adam Peterson, sustained minor injuries. Galla said he had little information and has not met the pilot or surviving passengers.