Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tragedy in the waters northeast of Prince Rupert

A tragic helicopter crash in the first week of August dominated the news, as a helicopter carrying workers for a mineral company exploring the Northwest crashed in the Kitsault River.

The story was national in nature and local in impact with the Daily News featuring it as their lead headline story in the August 7th edition of the paper.
The crash was also the main focus of a number of articles from various sources across Canada and BC in that week.
August 7-- Police identify four victims in northern B.C. helicopter crash
August 7-- Three miners, pilot dead in helicopter crash
August 6-- Chopper crash kills four near Prince Rupert
August 6-- Four dead after B.C. helicopter crash

Rescue crews arrive on scene quickly but they found no survivors after crash
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Pages one and three

The Victoria Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre has confirmed that a helicopter crash in Alice Arm has claimed the lives four men as it made its way up the Kitsault River.

According to Prism Helicopter Ltd., owners of the downed aircraft, the four deceased were on a mineral exploration job when the accident took place, 150 kilometers east of Prince Rupert.

“All I can confirm at this time is that all four passengers in the helicopter have been killed and that the accident happened this morning,” said Prism president Dave Zall yesterday.

Zall would not confirm any further details about the crash at the time because the families of the deceased were yet to be notified, however this morning the names of the four male passengers were released. The deceased are 60-year-old pilot, David Jeffrey Reid of Sydney, B. C., 53-year-old Frank Moehling of Calgary, Alberta, 55-year-old Walter Bodnar of Winnipeg, Manitoba and 27-year-old Nicolas Bodnar Jr., both with Bodnar Drilling.

The helicopter, a Hughes MD 500, departed camp at Alice Arm under good weather conditions at approximately 7 a. m., enroute to a drilling area at HomeStake Ridge. Minutes later, the helicopter lost control crashing into the waters of the Kitsault River just beyond the Alice Arm Estuary. First Aid attendants, camp personnel and other aircraft in the area rushed to the crash scene but were unable to provide immediate assistance due to the sites precarious location. The fast flowing water of the Kitsault River and the crash site’s proximity to the Alice Arm made recovery efforts very challenging. Terrace Search and Rescue, Prince Rupert Coast Guard, Rescue Squadron 442, the Prince Rupert RCMP and the RCMP’s Marine Section attended the area to assist with the recovery mission. The aircraft’s wreckage was secured as a result of a joint effort between SarTechs from the 442 Squadron and Search and Rescue Personnel from Terrace.

According to Prince Rupert RCMP spokesperson Const. Krista Vrolyk, Prince Rupert RCMP was notified about the accident at 8:30 am.

The bodies of the pilot and three passengers were transported to Prince Rupert Regional Hospital where they remain for Coroner Investigation.

Second Lieut. Jill Strelieff said that the Victoria Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre was notified at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning by BC Ambulance service that a helicopter was upside down in the Alice Arm area.
“I can only speak specifically about the JRCC’s operation,” Strelieff said. “The first (rescue) parachuters reached the crash location at 10:20 a.m. and was quickly followed by a Buffalo aircraft from CFB Comox’s 19 wing team.

“The terrain near Alice Arm is very steep and the helicopter was upside down in the Kitsault River, which unfortunately is a very difficult river to deal with.”

“Unfortunately the rescue operation did not turn out the way we would have liked it to have,” added Strelieff. “Our condolences go out to the families involved by this tragedy.”

Corp. Jeff Manning is a spokesperson for CFB Comox 19 Wing. Manning said the Buffalo aircraft needed two hours and 15 minutes to respond to the accident in Alice Arm from CFB Comox.

This is at least the second time in eight years that a helicopter owned by Prism Helicopters Ltd. has been involved in a fatal crash.

On Oct. 31, 2000, an MD 369D helicopter owned by Prism crashed on Mount Modeste, just outside of Port Renfrew.

Thirty- year-old Prism chief pilot Todd Carter lost his life in that accident and a TSB investigation ensued afterwards.

The TSB investigation report released on May 24, 2001, determined tat a crack in the main-rotor blade on the helicopter was the cause of the crash.

It went on to add that the crack was not, “visually identifiable before the flight.”

After the 2000 crash, the US Federal Aviation Administration required all MD369D helicopters to be checked for airworthiness before their next flight.

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