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Investigation report describes West Kootenay helicopter crash

Incident occurred in March near New Denver, no one injured
No one was injured in a helicopter crash in the Selkirk Mountains northeast of New Denver in March. Photo: Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

A federal regulator has released a report on a helicopter accident that occurred northeast of New Denver on March 16.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s report gives an account of the incident but does not assign blame or determine liability.

The helicopter, owned by Kootenay Valley Helicopters Ltd. of Nelson, was on an avalanche control flight with a pilot and two avalanche technicians on board.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure artificially triggers avalanches to reduce the threat of naturally triggered avalanches along provincial highways.

At about 1:30 p.m., as the helicopter has hovering, the crew dropped an explosive charge intended to trigger a controlled avalanche.

“Just as the pilot lost reference with the ground and flight visibility was reduced, the bombardier deployed a second explosive charge,” the investigation report states.

“The pilot, with reduced visibility, turned the helicopter to the left. During this manoeuvre the tail rotor contacted either a tree or the surface of the slope; this caused the helicopter to shudder.”

The vibration of the helicopter increased, and the pilot performed a forced landing.

“The helicopter landed hard on its skids and tipped onto its right (the pilot’s) side.”

The report outlines considerable damage to the helicopter, and states that the occupants were “disoriented and shaken, but uninjured.”

A rescue helicopter arrived an hour later.

The report outlines details of the weather conditions, the history of the flight, and the pilot’s credentials and experience.

The report states that following the incident the company instituted an enhanced system of in-flight briefings, and that the transportation ministry made a number of general recommendations regarding work activity, safety, equipment, and training, although the report does not list those.

Kootenay Valley Helicopters did not respond to the Nelson Star’s request for comment.

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