3-copter crash relived on cable

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

A re-enactment of last September's helicopter crashes on a local glacier will air Friday and Saturday on the cable Discovery Channel.

The crash Sept. 10 on Herbert Glacier involved three copters, and the Discovery Channel has scaled it down to two. Still, said Karl Bausler, a member of the Juneau Mountain Rescue Team and the Rope Rescue Team, it's worth watching. Bausler took part in the real incident and in the filming.

``They did a reasonable job of telling the story and exploring the phenomenon of the weather,'' Bausler said.

The segment is part of the channel's Storm Warning series. It airs 9 p.m. Friday as an episode titled ``Out of the Blue.'' There are other events in the show, including a hiker pinned by a fallen tree in a Minnesota wilderness, a flash flood that strands a man, and a wave that washes a fisherman away.

The show repeats Saturday at 12 a.m. and 6 p.m.

``It isn't so much a recreation as exploring with them the cause of the accident,'' Bausler said, ``the phenomenon of the weather and the light circumstances of the flights. Our role was mostly explaining how we dealt with the same weather conditions and got the job done.''

Five tourists, who were in the first TEMSCO helicopter to crash, were lifted off the glacier the next morning by a Coast Guard helicopter. The other two helicopters that crashed had been sent up to help. The Coast Guard also dropped off nine rescuers on the glacier that night. No one was seriously hurt in the incident.

The Discovery Channel's web site (www.discovery.com) says the ``Out of the Blue'' program looks ``at weather that surprises with a fury. A group of tourists fly into an unusual flat light white-out of a glacier and crash. Then the chopper sent to rescue them crashes too.''

Steve Lewis of Juneau also took part in the original rescue of tourists stranded on the mountain side overnight in freezing temperatures, and in the recreation.

A crew from the Discovery Channel filmed rescue workers in October during a night while they climbed around on Mendenhall Glacier, Lewis said.

``They are using the footage taken by the Coast Guard (who participated in the rescue) and some of the footage taken by the Rope Rescue Team and the Juneau Mountain Team, too,'' Lewis said.

Scenes were recreated with six or seven rescuers. The rescued tourists interviewed are Ronni and Rich Zell of Novato, Calif.

``It was well done,'' said Lewis, who has seen a preview video. ``It doesn't mention TEMSCO (the helicopter firm) by name. It deals mostly with the survivors' story rather than the actual crash, although it does deal with the flat light and the snow beginning to look just like sky.''

Lewis feels the crashes were no one's fault, that the pilots were experienced. ``It was just a bad set of (weather and visibility) conditions that day.''

Lewis enjoyed being part of the episode. ``It felt good because the original rescue turned out so well. It was almost fun because of the exhilaration of the actual rescue that we were trying to re-create,'' he said. However, he's not moving to Hollywood any time soon.

``I was amazed at what a poor actor I am,'' he said, as he tried over and over during filming to get the oomph back into ``Wow, we found 'em!''

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