Pilots recognized for efforts at crash

TWO pilots have been given an award for their work at a fatal helicopter crash near Sleeping Beauty Mountain last month.

WHITE RIVER Helicopters pilot Kief Khanlarian holds an award in recognition of the actions he and fellow pilot Andy Ramsay undertook following a fatal crash near here June 1.

TWO pilots have been given an award for their work at a fatal helicopter crash near Sleeping Beauty Mountain last month.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria issued the award to White River Helicopters, singling out Kief Khanlarian and Andy Ramsay, who first found the wreckage.

The JRCC’s award program acknowledges the contribution of volunteers and the general public who go above and beyond to assist in an emergency air or marine situation. The awards, given out a couple of times a year, are issued based on advice from the coordinators who run the cases.

“The gentlemen of White River Helicopters certainly went above and beyond on the 1st of June,” said Major James Pierotti, officer in charge of the JRCC.

“While all we can provide is a piece of paper, we hope they find pride in the sincere words from all of our coordinators here who greatly appreciated their assistance during the prosecution of this tragic accident.”

The cause of the crash is still undetermined. Three men, 44-year-old Peter Bryant of Terrace, 48-year-old Blake Erickson of Sicamous, BC and 44-year-old Arnaud Jolibois of Banff, Alberta, were killed June 1 when their helicopter, belonging to Bailey Helicopters, went down while on a training flight.

The weather was poor the day in the location of the crash.

“We just did what we thought needed to be done,” said Khanlarian, admitting it feels strange to get an award for someone’s misfortune. “But nobody’s adverse to being told they’ve done a good job.”

Khanlarian, originally from a coastal town in Devon, England, moved to Terrace in February last year. This is his first season with White River Helicopters.

He  served with the British Army for 24 years, where he trained to be a pilot and gained a number of first-responder skills.

It was Khanlarian’s day off when the crash took place. He was at home gardening when he got the call from Ramsay, who was on duty.

The emergency locator transmitter of the helicopter belonging Bailey had gone off and the company called White River.

Based on the coordinates from the transmitter, White River’s headquarters was  five minutes by air from the immediate vicinity of Sleeping Beauty Mountain.

The two flew over the area in question and saw nothing, so they extended their search.

After 45 minutes, the two pilots found the wreckage.

“Finding a crash is infrequent,” said Khanlarian. “Transmitters going off is usually not a crash. Usually someone’s knocked a button or a wire is loose. You don’t expect to find a crash, you expect to find someone sitting there, embarrassed.”

Ramsay dropped Khanlarian off to investigate, who then walked 10 to 15 minutes up the mountain. He approached the site and began speaking to the passengers as per CPR training.

But “there was nothing more I could do,” he said.

He then found a suitable base camp and prepared the area for the RCMP, armed forces search and rescue personnel, local search and rescue volunteers and an avalanche technician who would later arrive.

Meanwhile, the investigation by the federal Transportation Safety Board into the reasons for the crash continue.

Parts of the A-Star 350, manufactured in Europe, have been sent to France for testing because the safety board doesn’t have the facilities or equipment to do it in Canada, said investigator Glen Friesen.