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The National Park Service (NPS) dispatched its AS350 B3e high- altitude rescue helicopter from its base in Talkeetna to the crash location reported by the Beaver’s emergency locator transmitter. “We had no ability to get to the site at that time, since snowy, windy weather had settled onto the mountain,” said Nic Strohmeyer, an NPS helicopter specialist. “So our SAR helicopter had to return to base.”


On Aug. 6, when the weather cleared somewhat, the NPS B3e returned to Thunder Mountain to look for the crash site. They found it; the site was treacherous. The Beaver was broken in pieces and lodged in a crevasse at 10,920 feet, hanging nearly vertically from the incredibly steep mountainside.


Despite the danger of the situation, NPS Mountain Rescue Ranger Chris Erickson climbed onto a short-haul line suspended from the helicopter while pilot Andreas Hermansky flew right up to the crash site. (Survivors were not expected to be found at this point, but the NPS had to be sure.) Erickson spent five minutes there confirming that no one had survived, before worsening weather forced the B3e to retreat.


Four days later, Hermansky kept the B3e hovering over the crash site for 40 minutes while NPS Rescue Ranger Tucker Chenoweth hung from a 200-foot short-haul line and checked the wreckage in detail. Unfortunately, the conditions were just too dangerous to recover the bodies or to remove the aircraft debris from the mountainside. They remain there to this day, having since been buried by an overhead ice collapse.


Pilot Hermansky’s SAR flying skills during this mission were recognized by the Helicopter Association International (HAI) Salute to Excellence Appareo Pilot of the Year Award during HAI Heli-Expo 2019.


Remote accident site


46


July/Aug 2019


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