Helicopter Crash Claims Four
Lives; One Survivor
April 17, 2008
Three State employees and their pilot perished Tuesday when their
helicopter crashed during maintenance operations on the State
of Alaska Telecommunications System (SATS) near the 120 milepost
on the Glenn Highway. The Alaska Air National Guard helped to
recover and transport the only survivor of the helicopter crash
near Sheep Mountain to a local hospital for treatment.
According to the Rescue Coordination Center, a helicopter crash
site was located by the Alaska State Troopers Helo 1 helicopter
around 7:30 a.m. Helo 1 then picked up Alaska Air National Guard
pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron, who were conducting
a ground search of the area on snowmachine, and took the pararescuemen
to the crash scene.
Pararescuemen found one survivor, who was immediately flown to
Mat-Su Regional Hospital by Helo 1. Troopers reported that the
survivor was a passenger on the Era helicopter, and reports to
the RCC indicated that he was in an unstable condition.
This rescue mission kicked off around noon Tuesday when an emergency
locator transmitter signal was picked up by the RCC. The RCC
confirmed that no overdue aircraft were reported nor were any
lodges in the area expecting aircraft at this time. The Gulkana
Civil Air Patrol was launched to find the source of the ELT.
The search aircraft was able to get within one mile of the source
of the ELT but had to turn around due to bad weather.
Meanwhile, scattered reports indicated that an Era Aviation helicopter
was transporting workers from the State of Alaska's Department
of Administration's Enterprise Technology Services near the Sheep
The RCC tasked an HC-130 from the Alaska Air National Guard's
211th Rescue Squadron and an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from
the 210th Rescue Squadron, both with pararescuemen onboard, to
search for the source of the ELT signal. The HH-60 was only able
to get to the Palmer area before it had to return to Kulis Air
National Guard Base because of weather. The HC-130 was able to
get overhead of the ELT but could get no ground visual also because
of weather and returned to Kulis as well.
After returning to Kulis, three pararescuemen loaded up snowmachines
and drove north to conduct a nighttime ground search of the ELT
Helo 1 was launched again Wednesday morning and spotted the Era
helicopter crash scene around 7:30 a.m. One survivor was recovered
by pararescuemen and taken by Helo 1 to a local hospital, where
the patient was handed over to hospital personnel around 9 a.m.
Four other people who were on the helicopter were reported to
be deceased and were identified by the Alaska Department of Administration.
Tom Middleton, 46, had worked
for the Department of Administration (Department) for two years
and brought top level knowledge of circuits and digital microwave
(M/W) to the team. Middleton was a solid member of his church,
a loving husband and father.
Mike Seward, 38, had also worked
for the Department for two years and, like Middleton, showed
his dedication to his job by continually implementing improved
standards and improving any project he touched. Seward's 14 year
old son, Quinn, survived the crash and was transported to the
Mat-Su hospital. The Seward family is together now with Quinn
and prefer not to discuss his condition.
Joe O'Donnell transferred to
the Department from the Ted Stevens International Airport two
weeks ago ans according to information released by the Alaska
Department of Administration had already earned the professional
respect of the SATS team. He was the dedicated father to three
young sons and a loving husband.
Annette Kreitzer, Commissioner
of the Department of Administration said, "We all have suffered
a loss from this terrible tragedy. These men dedicated themselves
to keeping our communications systems working and were known
for their love of life and family. My thoughts and prayers go
out to their families and friends during this difficult time."
Jim Kohler, Manager of the
Alaska Land Mobile Radio (ALMR) System project said, "All
too many take for granted the skill, dedication, and commitment
required by the engineers and technicians who maintain the State
of Alaska Telecommunications System (SATS). Alaska has lost three
of its best. Those few of us who have shared the experience of
working with these men already painfully miss, not just their
professionalism, but also their smiles, enthusiasm, dedication,
laughter, and their proud and loving talk of family and of their
joys working and living in Alaska."
Anand Dubey, Director of Enterprise
Technology Systems (ETS) for the Department of Administration
said, "These men were the best we had; they were the A-Team
for ETS. They were exemplary employees who always strived for
excellence and set the standard for the rest of us. They are
Another ETS employee, Darrell
Bowman, who had been deployed to the same region to work on another
SATS site spent the night in the SATS site shelter, provisioned
for such occasions, and was picked up safely Wednesday morning.
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