“Four Killed in Alaska Helicopter Crash: Victims Identified”

By | August 9, 2023

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According to a federal report, a helicopter that crashed on Alaska’s North Slope, killing four people, was not reported overdue for over nine hours. The helicopter, owned by Maritime Helicopters and operated under a contract from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, crashed into Lake Itinik after flying low over a remote lake. Investigators are still determining the cause of the crash. The helicopter was equipped with a tracking system that stopped as it passed low over the lake, and NTSB investigators are trying to determine who was responsible for tracking the flight. Tess Williams reported

The federal report reveals that a state-chartered helicopter crashed on the North Slope of Alaska, resulting in the tragic deaths of four individuals. Surprisingly, the helicopter was not reported overdue until over nine hours after it had stopped flying low over a remote lake. The incident occurred near Wainwright, approximately 50 miles south of Utqiagvik, on July 20. The helicopter, a 1996 Bell 206 owned and operated by Maritime Helicopters, was carrying employees from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources who were conducting field work in the area.

The victims of the crash were identified as Bernard “Tony” Higdon, a North Pole pilot aged 48; Ronald Daanen, a 51-year-old resident of Fairbanks; Justin Germann, a 27-year-old resident of Fairbanks; and Tori Moore, a 26-year-old resident of South Bend, Indiana.

According to the preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the helicopter had departed from Utqiagvik at around 10 a.m. on July 20. Its intended route included a stop at the Atqasuk Airport before proceeding to a remote area east of Wainwright. The helicopter was expected to return to Utqiagvik by 8:30 p.m. However, the crash occurred shortly after 11 a.m., when the helicopter abruptly crashed into Lake Itinik.

It wasn’t until the helicopter failed to return by the scheduled time that a search was initiated, leading to the discovery of the wreckage in the shallow waters of the lake on July 21, around 3:15 a.m. The bodies of the victims were recovered on July 23. The NTSB’s preliminary report states that the helicopter was equipped with a tracking system, which ceased transmitting data as the flight passed low over the southeastern shoreline of the lake.

The NTSB investigators are currently focused on determining who was responsible for monitoring the flight and why the helicopter was flying at a low altitude, as Federal Aviation Administration regulations mandate flight tracking unless alternative arrangements have been made. Clint Johnson, the Alaska chief of the NTSB, mentioned that there was some initial confusion regarding the departure time of the helicopter, as both the operator and the Department of Natural Resources initially stated that it had left at 6 p.m. instead of the actual departure time of 10 a.m.

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Johnson also clarified that survival was unlikely regardless of when rescuers arrived at the crash site. Although the report indicates clear skies and good visibility with 8 miles of range, weather conditions in the vicinity of the crash were not accurately recorded due to the nearest weather readings being taken approximately 30 miles away.

The wreckage was eventually removed from the lake on July 30 and transported to Anchorage for further examination. However, Maritime Helicopters did not respond to inquiries, and the Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on the report and crash.

The NTSB is requesting anyone who may have been flying in the vicinity around the time of the crash to contact them via email at witness@NTSB.gov..