Former Coquitlam councillor reaches out after tragedy strikes

Terry O'Neill says tourists aboard Royal Princess are saddened by air crash that killed at least four people

A former Coquitlam councillor is reaching out to his friends and colleagues via Facebook after tragedy struck his cruise to Alaska.

Terry O’Neill was aboard the cruise ship tour in which passengers died in a mid-air collision involving two sightseeing planes.

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O’Neill, who was a journalist in an earlier career, reported some of the details to Global TV, noting that Princess Cruises offered grief counselling to passengers.

In his Facebook post to family and friends, O’Neill said the mood aboard the Princess Cruises ship was subdued last night and that he appreciates the care and concern everyone has shown.

“We think they have been very professional throughout,” O’Neill noted on his Facebook.

As many as 14 of his fellow Royal Princess guests had been on the downed planes.

The Royal Princess departed Vancouver last Saturday, and was scheduled to arrive in Anchorage, Alaska, on Saturday May 18.

The two sightseeing planes collided Monday afternoon off the coast of Alaska, leaving at least four people dead, the Coast Guard said. All 14 passengers on the two planes came from the cruise ship Royal Princess, which was on a seven-day trip from Vancouver, B.C., to Anchorage.

A Canadian is reportedly among the victims.

The California-based company said Tuesday the Canadian and an Australian had not been located after their single-engine de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver collided with a float plane carrying 11 people near Ketchikan.

Princess Cruises said rescue efforts were continuing for the unnamed Canadian and Australian, but Global Affairs Canada confirmed the Canadian was among those killed.

The department said the name or hometown of the victim was not being released for privacy reasons.

The United States Coast Guard had earlier said four bodies had been recovered — three from the smaller float plane and one from the larger plane — while 10 survivors were being treated for injuries at a hospital in Ketchikan.

"One aircraft, operated by Taquan Air, was flying a shore excursion sold through Princess Cruises," the company statement said.

"The flight was returning from a Misty Fjords tour carrying 10 guests from Royal Princess and a pilot. The second float plane involved was operating an independent flight tour carrying four additional guests from Royal Princess along with a pilot."

Princess Cruises spokesman Brian O'Conner said the company was extending its full support to investigating authorities as well as to the travelling companions of the guests involved.

"We immediately activated our Princess Care Team employees in the region and sent additional team members to Ketchikan overnight to assist the families impacted," O'Connor said in the statement.

The company also confirmed that the three victims recovered from the crashed Beaver, including the pilot, were U.S. citizens, as were all the passengers aboard the Taquan Air flight.

It's not known how the planes collided. National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on their way from Washington, D.C., to the crash site.

A safety board official said they were due to reach the scene at about midday Tuesday.

Global Affairs Canada said in an email that Canadian consular officials in Seattle were in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and stood ready to provide assistance as required.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family and loved ones of the Canadian citizen who died in Alaska," the email said.

— With files from The Associated Press and Canadian Press

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