SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


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 Mountain area.

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 signal area.

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 greatly missed."

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.


Sources of News:

Alaska Department of Administration
Alaska National Guard


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska