Communications lag rattles Lower 48 relatives after tourist plane crashes in Alaska, killing 9

For Pat and Judy Thompson, it was a "five-hour window of fearing the worst."

On Friday as the couple from Minnetonka, Minnesota, were getting ready for their day, Judy Thompson flipped on the TV and heard about a sightseeing plane carrying cruise ship passengers that crashed in Alaska, killing all nine on board. The news rattled the couple; their son, Brian, was on cruise vacation to Alaska with his girlfriend, and they were pretty adventurous. Could they have been on that plane?

Eight passengers from the Holland America Line ship Westerdam and a pilot died when a DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprop went down Thursday in Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan in southeast Alaska. The shore excursion was sold through Holland America.

The plane crashed on a cliff, 800 feet above a lake in steep, muddy and slippery terrain, said Chris John with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad. The fuselage was largely intact, but the wings and tail were separated or heavily deformed, he said.

A recovery crew reached the crash site Friday.

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

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.

Pat Thompson said he left messages on his son's cell. 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 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.

Sally Andrews, a Holland America Line spokeswoman, said by email 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 an announcement was made onboard the ship while in Ketchikan suggesting that guests reach out to their family members to let them know they were 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.