Bride dies, groom injured in copter crash after wedding

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2002

The groom and two others were injured when the helicopter went down in mountainous terrain late Friday night while ferrying the newlyweds from the top of Eagle Summit. The helicopter crashed in dense fog near Mile 109.2 of the Steese Highway, northeast of Fairbanks, troopers said.

The dead woman, Paula Sawyer, slipped in and out of consciousness after the crash and was pronounced dead at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. The injured were identified as her new husband Roy Ruble, 54, his brother Lee Ruble, 51, and Lee Ruble's wife, Peggy Rotan, 38. Troopers said the newlyweds were from Fairbanks and the other couple from Anchorage.

Trooper Sgt. Scott Grasle said the four were the only people on board the helicopter. They had been heading to Arctic Circle Hot Springs, 8 miles southeast of Central, for a wedding reception.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration visited at the site Saturday. An official cause of the crash had not been determined, but Grasle said it appeared to be the weather.

Troopers said Lee Ruble was piloting the helicopter, a 1968 Hughes OH-6A, which is registered to his name. Sgt. Dave Drvenkar said Ruble suffered a broken back in the crash.

A helicopter from the 68th Air Ambulance division at Fort Wainwright transported some of the injured to Fairbanks, according to Grasle. Rotan reportedly suffered a head injury. A nursing supervisor at Fairbanks Memorial said the three survivors were in satisfactory condition but declined to discuss their injuries.

Sawyer was a special education teacher at Tanana Middle School. Her husband lives in Fairbanks and owns Freedom Enterprises, an excavating company, and Arctic Choppers, a custom motorcycle shop.

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