ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A search and rescue operation successfully retrieved the bodies of a helicopter pilot and three scientists from the sunken wreckage of their aircraft on Sunday. The tragic incident occurred last week when their helicopter crashed in a shallow lake on the remote North Slope of Alaska.
The recovery operation was carried out by Alaska search and rescue divers and involved challenges due to the aircraft’s location in the middle of a vast tundra lake.
The victims were identified as pilot Bernard “Tony” Higdon, 48, of North Pole, Alaska, along with scientists Ronald Daanen, 51, and Justin Germann, 27, from Fairbanks, and Tori Moore, 26, from South Bend, Indiana. They were part of the Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey, conducting fieldwork for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources at the time of the tragic crash.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The recovery of the wreckage, which is essential to determine the circumstances leading to the accident, is expected to take place using another helicopter. However, the scarcity of commercial helicopters during Alaska’s fire season poses challenges to the operation.
The tweet below verifies the news:
Search and rescue divers recovered the bodies of a helicopter pilot and three scientists from the sunken wreckage of their aircraft, which went down in a shallow lake on Alaska’s remote North Slope, authorities say. https://t.co/9Ur5sO7VoE
— ABC News (@ABC) July 24, 2023
Maritime Helicopters, the owner of the 1996 Bell 206 helicopter, expressed its sorrow over the loss and praised the professionalism and skill of pilot Tony Higdon. The company pledged full cooperation with the NTSB in their investigation to ascertain the cause of the crash.
The wreckage was located near the coastal town of Wainwright, approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), the northernmost city in the United States. The ill-fated flight originated from Utqiagvik and was intended to return there.
Volunteers from the Alaska Dive Search, Rescue, and Recovery team conducted the arduous recovery operation, arriving at the crash site late on Saturday and successfully retrieving the bodies by Sunday morning.
Authorities anticipate that the submerged aircraft, situated in a 1-mile-wide (1.6-kilometer) lake, may not be raised until Monday or Tuesday due to the limited availability of helicopters during this critical phase of the investigation. As the investigation progresses, updates will be provided by the NTSB to shed light on the circumstances that led to this devastating helicopter crash.
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