ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The wreckage of a helicopter that crashed last weekend, killing five people, will have to be hoisted from a mountain by the company that owned it, a US investigator said .
The Airbus AS350 BB helicopter crashed near Knik Glacier, north of Anchorage, on Saturday, killing the pilot and four passengers, including the richest person in the Czech Republic. There was a survivor.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash on rough terrain only accessible by helicopter just north of Anchorage. The downed helicopter is owned and operated by Soloy Helicopters of Wasilla, according to Tom Chapman, a member of the NTSB board of directors.
Clint Jonson, head of the agency’s Alaska division, said Soloy’s insurance company would be tasked with hoisting the wreckage up the mountain in the hope that it would be turned over to investigators.
If time permits, the hope is to have it off the mountain by the end of the week, he said.
The helicopter appears to have struck the mountain 10 to 15 feet (3.05 to 4.57 meters) below a ridge line at an altitude of approximately 5,500 feet (1,676 meters). The helicopter then rolled from 800 to 900 feet (244 to 274 meters) downhill, Chapman said.
Chapman said the last satellite signal from the helicopter was at 6:34 p.m. The helicopter, which was on a heli-skiing adventure trip with two guides and three guests from Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, was reported to be late at 8:30 p.m. . in search of the plane, it was found an hour later.
Volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and the Alaska National Guard recovered the bodies Sunday before a forecast snowstorm.
Federal investigators will focus on the reasons why the craft has not been reported late for two hours, the weather conditions, the experience and history of the pilot and the airworthiness of the helicopter.
The half-day heliski flight was organized by the lodge who contracted with Soloy Helicopters for excursions. Packages start at $ 15,000 per person.
The helicopter either had to file a flight plan or use electronics so officials could follow the plane.
“Soloy Helicopters extends its sincere condolences to the families of those lost in the March 27 crash in Alaska, including our valued colleague who also died in the crash,” a previous company statement said. “Safety is our top priority and it is in this spirit that we will be working alongside the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other local officials as the investigation into this accident ensues.”
A spokesperson for Soloy said the company would have no further comment since the accident is under investigation.
Petr Kellner, 56, billionaire from the Czech Republic, and Benjamin Larochaix, 50, also from the Czech Republic, were killed in the crash. Guides Gregory Harms, 52, of Colorado, were also killed; and two Alaskan residents, Sean McManamy, 38, of Girdwood, and pilot, Zachary Russell, 33, of Anchorage, Alaska State Troopers said.
The survivor was David Horvath, 48, also from the Czech Republic. He was listed in serious condition Wednesday at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
Horvath was found alive inside the helicopter when rescuers arrived at around 12:30 am Sunday, said Alaska Air National Guard Lt. Col. Keenan Zerkel, director of the Rescue Coordination Center of the ‘Alaska.