Wednesday, August 10, 2022

de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver Mk 1, N1249K: Fatal accident August 05, 2021 in Ketchikan, Alaska

Families of 4 killed in Alaska floatplane crash sue Holland America, alleging cruise company pressures excursion operators

Pilot Rolf Lanzendorfer

The families of four tourists killed in an Alaskan floatplane crash last year have sued Holland America Line, alleging the Seattle-based cruise company pressures outside excursion operators to take unnecessary risks to meet cruise schedules and doesn’t warn passengers of excursion dangers.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleges Holland America knew of the dangers because passengers on previous trips had died in similar crashes. Rather than warning its passengers that such trips come with risks, the lawsuit accuses Holland America of merely requiring floatplane excursion operators — most of which are independent businesses — to add the cruise line company to their insurance policies.

“Under maritime law, the Holland Defendants had a duty to warn passengers of these risks,” the lawsuit says. “Thus, the Holland Defendants response … was to protect itself from liability rather than protect its cruise passengers — by mitigating associated risks or warning its passengers of the risks involved in floatplane excursions.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the families of Andrea McArthur, 55, and her 20-year-old daughter, Rachel McArthur, both of Woodstock, Georgia; Jacquelyn Komplin, 60, of Napa, California; and Janet Kroll, 77, of Mount Prospect, Illinois.

The four were among six people killed when a floatplane owned by Southeast Aviation of Ketchikan, Alaska, slammed into a mountainside while touring Misty Fjords National Monument in bad weather Aug. 5, 2021.

All of the flight’s passengers had been aboard Holland America’s ship Nieuw Amsterdam, which was docked in Ketchikan as part of a seven-day “Alaska Explorer” cruise, according to the lawsuit.

Also killed were pilot Rolf Lanzendorfer, 64, of Cle Elum, Kittitas County, who’s named as a defendant, and Mark Henderson, 69, of Napa, whose family is not a party to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Lanzendorfer had only recently returned to work at Southeast Aviation after having been involved in another floatplane crash a month earlier. According to news reports, National Transportation and Safety Board regional chief Clint Johnson said Lanzendorfer was flying alone in a Southeast floatplane when he hit a buoy shortly after takeoff and flipped the plane.

The lawsuit claims that a Federal Aviation Administration investigation found Lanzendorfer acted “carelessly” when he failed to properly taxi and clear his takeoff in the July 9, 2021, crash.

The fatal August 5, 2021, crash came as Lanzendorfer was trying to return to Ketchikan to get his passengers to the Holland America ship before it departed at 4 p.m. According to weather reports cited in the lawsuit, the cloud ceiling was as low as 600 feet that day.

The lawsuit notes that Misty Fjords National Monument “takes its name for the near constant precipitation … which causes mist and low clouds that often cling to sheer cliffs rising from the fjords and obscure the mountaintops.”

The lawsuit alleges Lanzendorfer flew the floatplane “intentionally, carelessly, recklessly and with conscious disregard for the safety of the paying passengers … into unsafe weather conditions, which increased the probability that serious harm and fatalities would result.”

The lawsuit notes that the tourists who were killed purchased their excursions through a private travel agent or operator. However, the lawsuit claims Holland America promoted those excursions in its literature and on its website, stating that “only by air can you fully appreciate the dramatic beauty of land slowly crafted by nature over tens of thousands of years.”

“They use these exciting excursions to sell cruises,” said Atlanta attorney Ranse Partin, the lead plaintiff attorney.

James Rogers, a Seattle lawyer for the plaintiffs, said Holland America failed to warn its passengers “of the dangers posed by these flights, which they well know.”

The lawsuit alleges that Holland America knows its schedules “heavily influence the tour schedules of shore excursion operators.” And while Holland America doesn’t provide the excursions, the cruise line advertises and markets them to “promote the overall cruise experience,” the lawsuit says, noting that both the cruise line and third-party operators benefit from high numbers of cruise passengers booking excursions.

The lawsuit also states that the NTSB has expressed concerns about this relationship and the pressures it puts on excursion providers. The agency reported that seaplane and floatplane excursions in Alaska were involved in 207 crashes involving 80 fatalities between January 2008 and June 2019.

“The mountainous terrain coupled with hazardous weather conditions, high aviation traffic and tight sightseeing floatplane tour schedules due to a desire for operators and cruise lines to maximize the number of participating passengers for increased profits, created an unreasonably dangerous excursion,” the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit references two other fatal floatplane crashes involving cruise passengers, including a June 2015 crash that killed eight passengers and the pilot on a similar excursion to view Misty Fjords National Monument. The NTSB in its final report “attributed that crash to scheduling pressures that force some seaplane operators to fly in marginal weather conditions.”

The agency asked the Cruise Lines International Association in a subsequent letter to investigate the dynamics of the relationship between cruise lines and excursion operators to try to mitigate some of those risks, the lawsuit claims.

A Holland America spokesperson, who declined to be named, said in a statement: “We were incredibly saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the families of those who died.”

“This floatplane excursion was independently operated and purchased separately by the impacted guests and not sold through or advertised by Holland America Line,” the statement said. “Safety is of utmost importance to us, and our contracts with tour operators emphasize it as a top priority.”

An individual who identified himself as Jim Kosmos, answering a Monday phone call to the offices of Southeast Aviation, declined to provide his position with the company and said he had no comment on the lawsuit.

Records show Kosmos is the company’s owner.

Pilot Rolf Lanzendorfer, 64, of Cle Elum, Washington.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

Investigator In Charge (IIC): Kemner, Heidi

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Anchorage, Alaska
Federal Aviation Administration Accident Investigation and Prevention AVP-100; Washington, District of Columbia
Hartzell Propellers; Piqua, Ohio
Southeast Aviation; Ketchikan, Alaska 

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board:

Snow Mountain Enterprises LLC

Southeast Aviation 

Location: Ketchikan, AK 
Accident Number: ANC21FA069
Date & Time: August 5, 2021, 10:50 Local
Registration: N1249K
Injuries: 6 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter - Non-scheduled - Sightseeing

On August 5, 2021, about 1050 Alaska daylight time, a DeHavilland DHC-2, N1249K, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Ketchikan, Alaska. The airline transport pilot and five passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was operated by Southeast Aviation, LLC, as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 on-demand sightseeing flight.

On the morning of the accident, an airplane fueler noted that the pilot performed a preflight inspection of the airplane and then asked the fueler to fuel the airplane so that the front tank was full (35 gallons) and the center tank was filled to 20 gallons of fuel. The pilot departed on the first passenger flight of the day about 0752 and returned to the dock about 0921. He again asked the fueler to fill and top off the front tank and fill the center tank to 20 gallons (totaling 55 gallons of fuel). Then, the pilot departed on the second passenger flight of the day, the accident flight, about 0939.

The airplane was equipped with a Spidertracks flight tracking system, which provides real-time aircraft flight tracking data. The flight tracking information is transmitted via Iridium satellites to an internet-based storage location, at one-minute intervals. The first part of the flight the airplane flew through the Misty Fjord Monument and landed on Big Goat Lake about 1018. Then at 1027, the airplane departed the lake and was en route to return to Ketchikan Harbor. The last satellite tracking system transmission from the airplane was at 1048; when the airplane was at an altitude of 1,730 ft mean sea level (msl) and on a ground track of 261° true.

About 1050, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Alaska received a 406 Mhz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal assigned to the accident airplane. After being notified of an overdue airplane and after learning about reports of an ELT signal along the accident pilot’s anticipated flight route, search and rescue personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka and Temsco Helicopters, Inc. began searching for the missing airplane. The airplane was located about 1120 and USCG rescue personnel reached the accident site later that afternoon and confirmed that there were no survivors. 

The airplane impacted heavily wooded, mountainous terrain about 18 miles northeast of Ketchikan, Alaska, and 1.46 miles from the last satellite tracking system point at an elevation of about 1,750 ft msl. The airplane initially impacted a tree about 435 ft from the main wreckage location, and the outboard section of the left wing was located at the base of the tree. The inboard section of the left wing was located in a tree along the debris path, which had a heading of 242°. All major components of the airplane were located in the vicinity of the main wreckage. 

The fuselage came to rest on the left side and was impact crushed. The right wing remained attached to the fuselage. The outboard section of the right wing was impact separated but remained attached through a cable. The empennage remained attached to the fuselage and was impact damaged. The rudder and vertical stabilizer remained attached to the empennage, but the vertical stabilizer tip was separated. The left horizontal stabilizer and elevator were impact separated. The right horizontal stabilizer remained attached to the empennage and exhibited leading edge damage. The right elevator was impact separated. The floats were impact separated. The forward section of the left float was impact damaged. Flight control continuity was confirmed from the flight controls in the cockpit to all flight control surfaces.

The airplane was equipped with a Pratt & Whitney R-985 series engine. The engine remained attached to the airframe though several of the engine mounts were separated and the engine exhibited damage signatures consistent with impact damage. The oil sump was impact damaged and had a hole in it. Fuel was noted in the line from the firewall to the engine. A detailed engine examination is pending.

The airplane was equipped with a 3-blade, controllable pitch propeller. All blades remained attached to the hub. The spinner was removed and exhibited impact damage. The propeller blades exhibited bending and chordwise scratching in several locations.

Other pilots who were flying passenger flights on the morning of the accident stated that there were low clouds in the valley in which the accident occurred. Pilots who were assisting with the search and rescue efforts reported that the weather was overcast and the mountain tops were obscured. In addition, the clouds were as low as 600-800 ft overcast above ground level in some of the valleys, including the valley of the accident location.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: DEHAVILLAND
Registration: N1249K
Model/Series: DHC-2 MK.I
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built:
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand air taxi (135)
Operator Designator Code: S03A

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PAKT,80 ft msl
Observation Time: 10:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 16 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 13°C /13°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 700 ft AGL
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 6 knots / , 150°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 1800 ft AGL
Visibility: 3 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.9 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: VFR
Departure Point: Misty Fjords, AK
Destination: Ketchikan, AK

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 5 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 6 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 55.482583,-131.22532 

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.


  1. The pilot died too, however the court filings do not say the pilot had a blatant disregard for his own life. For the plaintiffs’ claim to make sense, they would need to show that the pilot did not care if his passengers died, while still caring about his own life - a paradox.

  2. Seems like the area, weather and required dovetailing with tourists schedules to be back at the ship on time pose a mighty difficult business model for making a living with aircraft.

  3. It is questionable to bring Holland America into this lawsuit when the seaplane bookings was independent and the lawyer's attempt at the air connection seems a grasp at bigger pockets.