Weather considered in deadly helicopter crash

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2008

WASILLA - A federal investigator says bad weather will be considered in the crash of a helicopter northeast of Anchorage earlier this week.

Four people were killed in Tuesday's crash. One person, a 14-year-old boy, survived.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Larry Lewis said Thursday that his investigation is just beginning. But he said the weather in general was fairly bad when the helicopter went down near Sheep Mountain, with snow squalls and low visibility.

Lewis on Thursday said his investigation is just beginning and weather is just one factor he'll review. He expects to release a preliminary report this week and a more comprehensive final report later on.

Lewis said there is nothing so far to indicate that Era pilot Benoit Pin, 39, of Anchorage erred in deciding to fly that morning.

Era Helicopters is not commenting beyond a statement issued Wednesday expressing condolences to the victims' families.

The crash occurred on a routine state-chartered trip by maintenance technicians to telecommunications towers along the Glenn Highway.

Killed in the crash were Thomas E. Middleton, 46, of Anchorage; Joseph C. O'Donnell, 47, of Girdwood; and Michael D. Seward, 37, of Palmer.

Quinn Ellington, Seward's stepson, was the only survivor. He was roughly 200 feet downhill from the crash site. The boy, out in frigid weather for at least 20 hours, waded through sugary, waist-deep snow to a creek bed.

The Colony Middle School student was probably sitting in the left rear seat, the most protected seat given the way the helicopter crashed, Lewis said.

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