By Steve Quinn
JUNEAU, Alaska (Reuters) - A sightseeing plane that crashed last month in Alaska killing all nine on board was flying in "marginal" visual conditions marked by rain and patches of low clouds before hitting a mountain, federal investigators said on Tuesday.
The DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter float plane crashed on June 25 during a tour of the Misty Fjords area near Ella Lake, about 24 miles (39 km) northeast of Ketchikan, a popular summertime cruise destination.
The plane, operated by Promech Air, was returning to its base under "marginal visual meteorological conditions," according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board released on Tuesday.
The report did not draw conclusions or assess blame for the crash. The agency says a comprehensive review of the plane will be conducted once it is recovered from the crash site and taken to Ketchikan.
Promech Air did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The plane struck a tree nose up and rested upright on top of the separated floats, the report and investigator photographs of the crash showed. All eight passengers and the pilot were killed.
The report, citing weather data from the nearest reporting facility about 24 miles (39 miles) from the crash site, said the wind was gusting to 26 miles per hour (42 kph), with broken clouds at 1,200 feet (370 meters) and overcast conditions at 2,700 feet (820 meters).
The crash site's remote location, low visibility from clouds and fog, and the plane's precarious position on the side of the steep rock face delayed the recovery of the bodies until the following day.
The flight, an excursion booked via a cruise ship, was sold through Holland America Line, a unit of Carnival Corp, which has since stopped selling the flights.
(Reporting by Steve Quinn; Editing by Eric M. Johnson and Eric Beech)