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24 May 2019 14:47
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  •   Home > News > International

    Sydney man killed in midair seaplane collision in Alaska, six Royal Princess cruise passengers dead

    Police confirm Australian man Simon Bodie is among the six dead after two sightseeing planes collided in midair off the coast of Alaska. The passengers were guests from a cruise ship touring the area.

    Alaskan police have identified the Australian man killed in a midair collision between two small sightseeing planes as Sydney man Simon Bodie.

    Mr Bodie, 56, from Tempe in Sydney's inner-west, was one of six people killed in the crash off the Alaskan coast, along with four Americans and a Canadian.

    All 14 passengers on the two seaplanes came from the cruise ship Royal Princess, which is on a seven-day tour from Vancouver to Anchorage. Each plane also had a single pilot.

    Authorities said the collision occurred at 1:08pm on Monday, local time, in George Inlet about eight nautical miles from the town of Ketchikan, where cruise ships often stop.

    The first plane, a de Havilland Otter operated by Taquan Air, was carrying 10 Americans and a pilot, who were returning from a tour.

    The Coast Guard recovered one body from the aircraft. Nine passengers and the pilot were rescued. Four patients were flown to Seattle for further treatment, and three remain in a serious condition.

    The second, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver which was operated by a different tour company, had four passengers and a pilot on board.

    Rescuers said it crashed on a steep section of rocky shoreline and was partially submerged upside down in the seawater. The Coast Guard recovered the bodies of two guests and the pilot.

    US Coast Guard lieutenant Brian Dykens said the death toll had risen to six after two more bodies were found by helicopter near the crash site of the second plane.

    Mourning the loss of a 'beautiful person'

    Mr Bodie's family issued a statement via the Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday evening.

    "Simon was a unique, beautiful person and a devoted family man," the family said.

    "He will be greatly missed by all that knew him.

    "At this difficult time, we ask that the media respect our family's privacy."

    Seaplanes popular with tourists in the area

    Cruise company, Princess Cruises, said rescue and recovery efforts were still taking place on Tuesday morning local time.

    "All of us at Princess Cruises are deeply saddened by this tragic news," spokesman Brian O'Connor said.

    "We immediately … sent additional team members to Ketchikan overnight to assist the families impacted."

    Seaplane flights over the Alaskan wilderness are popular with tourists and cruise passengers at this time of the year.

    There was a serious, though not fatal, crash last July involving Taquan Air.

    In 2015, nine people died when a sightseeing plane crashed into a mountain northeast of Ketchikan during a tour.

    Both involved pilots flying in poor weather. Alaskan weather is notoriously fickle even during the warmer months.

    Taquan Air suspends all flights

    In a statement, Taquan Air said it had suspended all flights.

    "Our focus is on assisting these passengers, the pilot, our staff, their families and loved ones, and first responders."

    At the time of this collision, the National Weather Service says there was 16 kilometres of visibility and it was partly cloudy with 14 km/h southeast winds.

    Transport safety investigators from Anchorage and Washington DC were headed to the crash site on Tuesday morning local time.

    The Coast Guard has been leading the rescue operation with help from local volunteers, state police, firefighters, forest service workers and staff from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

    "With the loss of life in this case, we know that impact to Alaska is immense," said Captain Stephen White, Coast Guard Sector commander.

    "In a remote area such as this, give our limited resources, we rely on our partner agencies and appreciate the support good Samaritans have rendered to this point," he said.

    The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it is providing consular assistance to the man's family.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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