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Multi-organization recovery effort in Kitsault helicopter fatality

A helicopter pilot died in a longlining manoeuvre
Prince Rupert RCMP Coastal Unit assisted in a helicopter recovery operation on Nov. 9 when a man died in Kitsault.

A pilot died in a helicopter crash in northwest B.C. on Nov. 9 during a longline manoeuvre, officials confirmed today.

The Transportation Safety Board said the Geotech Aviation commercial chopper was conducting survey operations near Kitsault, between Prince Rupert and Stewart, when it collided with terrain.

It says military aircraft and search and rescue technicians found the fatally injured pilot, who was the sole occupant on board. There was no fire after the collision but the aircraft was destroyed.

A joint recovery operation between the Prince Rupert RCMP Coastal Unit, Terrace Search and Rescue and Emergency Management British Columbia was successful despite being hampered by extreme terrain in the area and potentially dangerous conditions,

“The operation was very technical and dangerous, we had to modify the plan because of the risk encountered,” Dave Jephson of Terrace SAR said. “I have never had an operation go more smoothly under such extreme conditions.”

The name and age of the deceased man will not be released due to privacy for the family. Jephson highlighted the importance of the recovery operation for the family involved.

“It’s everything. It provides closure for the family,” he said. “We are all responsible for that family member.”

The Transportation Safety Board says it’s sending an investigator to the site of a the crash. It’s too early to say what caused the crash, however the investigator will consider the wreckage, equipment, weather conditions, maintenance history and operation of the aircraft.

Investigations by the board seek to improve transportation safety and do not assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

The SAR manager attributed the smoothness of the recovery operation to the RCMP trusting the Terrace SAR’s expertise and efficient planning sessions.

Prince Rupert RCMP Coastal Unit had the required assets and vessels readily available to respond to the emergency.

“We are appreciative to have such talented volunteers and resources available for these types of logistically challenging investigations,” Cpl. Stephen Senuita of the RCMP Coastal Unit said. “We are grateful to have a good working relationship with our partner agencies such as Terrace Search and Rescue.”

The RCMP offers condolences to the family of the man who died in this incident.

“The RCMP once again extends its gratitude to Terrace SAR as well as EMBC and the BC Coroners for their assistance in the investigation as well as the recovery effort,” a press release states.

For more information on becoming a Search and Rescue volunteer visit your local Search and Rescue website for more details.

— with files from The Canadian Press

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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