The pilot and eight passengers from a Holland America Line ship were killed when their light aircraft crashed in Alaska yesterday.

The seaplane was on a shore excursion when the accident happened about 20 miles northeast of Ketchikan, near Ella Lake.

The DeHavilland DHC-3 Twin Otter operated by Promech Air was carrying eight passengers from the ship Westerdam, which ship had left Seattle on Saturday on a seven-say Alaska cruise.

The US coast guard said officials were notified of an overdue turboprop Otter and launched a helicopter and a rescue vessel.

They tracked an emergency locator transmitter that activated near Misty Fjords and a helicopter pilot spotted wreckage on a cliff face.

The cruise line said: “We are incredibly distressed by this situation, and our thoughts and prayers are with those on board the plane and their families.

“Holland America Line is extending its full support to travelling companions of the guests involved.”

Promech said that the crash happened about 11.20am and the plane was one of five Otter aircraft in its fleet.

Clint Johnson, head of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska office, said it was too soon to know circumstances of the crash, including whether the plane flew into the cliff, the Associated Press reported.

The Ketchikan Daily News reported the Westerdam had been scheduled to leave the city at 1pm but remained in port on Thursday evening.