Five killed in plane crash near Ketchikan

Four survive after sightseeing craft plummets into tree

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2007

A sightseeing airplane crashed near this island city in Southeast Alaska, killing five people, including a 3-year-old boy, his parents and his grandfather, authorities said.

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Four people survived the crash Thursday, including the boy's grandmother and twin sister, who was in critical condition in a Seattle hospital, officials and neighbors of the Oregon family said.

Ketchikan Public Safety Director Rich Leipfert said the SeaWind Aviation plane crashed into a tree at Traitors Cove, about 25 miles north of Ketchikan. Jerry Kiffer with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad said the plane went down on land along the shore.

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said it couldn't be immediately confirmed that the plane hit a tree, but several trees were burning after the crash.

The cause was under investigation. Peters said, at the time of the crash, high winds unexpectedly came up, but it couldn't immediately be determined if that was a factor.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigators were headed to the scene of the crash, said Allen Kenitzer, an FAA spokesman.

The NTSB was sending extra investigators to Ketchikan since the sightseeing crash was the second in the past month, said Jim La Belle, the agency's regional director for Alaska. Last month, the pilot and four passengers of a sightseeing plane died when the plane crashed in the mountains of Misty Fiords National Monument, also near Ketchikan.

"We want to see if there are some underlying issues," La Belle said.

Earlier this month, four members of a New Jersey family were killed when their single-engine plane crashed into a home and set it ablaze in Sitka, also in Southeast Alaska.

Killed in Thursday's crash in Ketchikan were Eric M. Smith, 37; his wife Christine L. Smith, 36; their son Trevor R. Smith, 3, all of Tualatin, Ore.; David R. Mayer, 60, Oregon City, Ore. and Daniel J. Herron, 49, of Irvine, Calif.

Troopers identified the survivors as pilot Clifford S. Kamm, 44, and tour guide Sara J. Steffen, 27, both of Ketchikan; Allison N. Smith, 3, of Tualatin, and Mindy M. Mayer, 60, of Oregon City.

Mayer, Kamm and Steffen were in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but the little girl was in critical condition, officials said.

Neighbors of the Smiths in Tualatin said the Mayers were the grandparents of the twins. The family was on a vacation cruise along the Alaska coast.

Neighbor Kathy Ohannessian said the Smiths took one vacation without their kids but Christine missed them so much, she vowed never to do it again.

"Their focus in life was to be wonderful parents," Ohannessian said.

SeaWind Aviation's Web site lists its only aircraft as a deHavilland Beaver floatplane. The company offers bear viewing and sightseeing tours, including flights to nearby Misty Fiords National Monument.

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