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Chopper pilot survives crash

by Sarah Elizabeth Brown



Circling about 220 metres above a northern B.C. mountain, Whitehorse pilot Gerry Whitley and his spotter had no trouble seeing the freshly-crashed helicopter remains.


The demolished Bell 206 helicopter lay in the saddle of a “reasonably high mountain” at about 1,600 metres, Whitley, the member of the Whitehorse Civil Air Search and Rescue Association, said in an interview this morning. He had received the call at about 6 p.m. Monday to hop in his plane and head for Atlin, B.C.


Most of the surrounding area, all above the tree line, was loose rock and a little lichen and tundra. Despite being high above the crash site, Whitley could see good landing sites next to the downed helicopter.“It was very stark, yes,” Whitley said. “It was quite high up and as a result it was very easy to see.”


The Atlin helicopter pilot and lone occupant of the Bell 206 is in Whitehorse General Hospital with several broken bones and internal injuries after surviving the crash Monday afternoon. The Atlin-based Discovery Helicopters aircraft crashed upside down at about 4 p.m., said Capt. Dennis Johnston, an air controller with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria.


The crash occurred about 60 kilometres southeast of Atlin. Whitley and his spotter flew down to the crash site Monday evening to take photographs and confirm the crash. Another Atlin helicopter was already on-scene to turn off the beacon so it wouldn’t be mistaken for another crash, said Whitley. It’s not yet known why the helicopter crashed.


The 28-year-old pilot was taken from the crash site to Atlin by his father, where he was handed over to a medivac crew and flown to Whitehorse, said WGH spokeswoman Val Pike. The pilot’s father also works for Discovery Helicopters, said Johnston. The crash victim was admitted to hospital with fractured ribs, a fractured right leg, a fractured wrist and internal chest injuries. Pike said he’s expected to stay at WGH, and won’t be medivaced to a hospital Outside.

Johnston expects the five-seater helicopter is a write-off.


Transportation Safety Board investigator Damien Lawson said from Vancouver this morning that he’ll be looking into the crash, but knows little so far because he hasn’t been able to speak to the injured pilot. It’s unknown when the pilot will be well enough to speak to investigators.


Atlin RCMP Cpl. Larry Burke said the crashed helicopter will remain on the mountain until the safety board investigators can examine it.

Discovery Helicopters has declined comment.


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