Helicopter crash in Alaska backcountry ski trip kills 5

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A contracted helicopter carrying guides and guests from a lodge on a helisking trip in Alaska’s backcounty crashed, killing five people and leaving one in serious but stable condition, authorities said.

On board the flight were three guests and two guides from Tordillo Mountain Lodge, said Mary Ann Pruitt, a spokesperson for the lodge. The sixth person on the flight was a pilot from Soloy Helicopters, a Wasilla-based company that is contracted by the lodge to provide transportation, Pruitt said.

“This news is devastating to our staff, the community in which we operate and the families of the deceased,” a statement released by the lodge said.

The Eurocopter AS50 crashed under unknown circumstances about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Anchorage at 6:35 p.m. Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday. Authorities said the crash site was near Knik Glacier.

The lodge is located about 60 miles (96.56 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage, on Judd Lake. The company website bills itself as the longest operating heliskiing lodge in Alaska, promising deep powder, pristine runs on some of the best mountain terrain in the world. “An unparalleled alpine adventure is only a helicopter ride away,” the website says. Packages start at $15,000 per person.

The statement from lodge said this was the first time in its 17 years in business “we’ve had to face an event of this measure.”

Soloy Helicopters, based in Wasilla, has a fleet of 19 helicopters providing charter services primarily in Alaska.

Its website says it provides support to government and industry, specializing in work for seismic oil drilling exploration programs. Soloy Helicopters did not immediate respond to an email to The Associated Press seeking comment Sunday.

Alaska State Troopers said in a statement Sunday that they received a report of an overdue helicopter and the location of possible crash debris Saturday night.

A rescue team from Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was dispatched to the crash site in the area of Knik Glacier just after 10 p.m., troopers wrote. The team arrived to find five occupants dead and a sole survivor, who was taken to a hospital.

No identities were immediately released, but authorities are notifying next of kin.

The Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Army National Guard, and Alaska Mountain Rescue Group will attempt recovery efforts at the site Sunday. A temporary flight restriction is in place near Knik Glacier until 11 a.m. Monday for a recovery mission. Pilots should avoid the area, troopers say.

The National Transportation Safety Board said an investigator was headed to the crash scene.

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