Lag in communication scares family after Alaska plane crash

A family hearing about the small Alaska sightseeing plane crash says communication with officials could have been better.

Pat Thompson said he left messages on his son’s cellphone. He tried a sales department number for the cruise line but got no help, he said. He reached an Alaska State Trooper in Ketchikan, who gave him a family-line number for Holland America. When he finally got through, the person who answered asked for his son’s name. When he gave it, "she said, well, you know, I'm happy to tell you that he was not on the plane," he said.

Turns out, his son was on a different cruise ship to Alaska. "But, you know, you see a CNN story with a big picture of a cruise ship, you don't know what's going on," he said.

Eight passengers from the Holland America Line ship Westerdam and a pilot died Thursday when the DeHaviland DHC-3 Otter turbopop they were on sightseeing went down in Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketichikan in southeast Alaska. The excursion was sold through Holland America.

The plane crashed on a cliff, 800 feet above a lake. Chris John, a Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue worker. Said the fuselage was largely intact, but the wings and tail were separated or heavily deformed.

John said the aircraft was sitting at a steep angle and three members from his organization had to secure it so they could safely recover the bodies Friday.

Alaska State Troopers tentatively identified the victims as Hal Cheney, 71, and Mary Doucette, 59, of Lodi, California; Glenda Cambiaso, 31, and Hugo Cambiaso, 65, of North Potomac, Maryland; June Kranenburg, 73, and Leonard Kranenburg, 63, of Medford, Oregon; Margie Apodaca, 63, and Raymond Apodaca, 70, of Sparks, Nevada; and the pilot, Bryan Krill, 64, of Hope, Idaho.

Their remains will be taken to and positively identified at the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage.

Sally Andrews, a spokeswoman for Holland America Line, said in an email to The Associated Press that the cruise company received “a small number of calls in our offices from concerned family members or friends.”

"We let them know that families of those guests involved in this tragic accident were being notified according to the emergency contact information provided by the guests to us," she wrote.

Andrews said in an announcement was made onboard the ship while in Ketchikan suggesting that guests reach out to their relatives to let them know they are OK.

There were 2,095 passengers on the Westerdam, which set out from Seattle June 20. That includes the eight people who were on the plane, she wrote.

Pat Thompson said he feels awful for the families who lost loved ones, and his thoughts and prayers go out to them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report