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One dead, three hurt, in helicopter crash

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2002

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) -- A 52-year-old bride died early Saturday after a helicopter crashed near the Steese Highway following her summer solstice wedding ceremony at Eagle Summit, Alaska State Troopers said.

The groom and two others were injured when the helicopter went down in mountainous terrain late Friday night while ferrying the newlyweds from the top of Eagle Summit. The helicopter crashed in dense fog about 100 feet from Mile 109.2 of the Steese Highway, troopers said.

The dead woman was identified as Paula Sawyer, who had slipped in and out of consciousness. The injured were identified as her new husband Roy Ruble, 54, his brother Lee Ruble, 51, and Lee Ruble's wife, Peggy Rotan, 38. Troopers said the newlyweds were from Fairbanks and the other couple from Anchorage.

Trooper Sgt. Scott Grasle said the four were the only people on board the helicopter. They had been heading to Arctic Circle Hot Springs, 8 miles southeast of Central.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration were at the site Saturday. An official cause of the crash had not been determined, but Grasle said it appeared to be weather related.

Details were sketchy Saturday evening but troopers said Lee Ruble was piloting the helicopter, a 1968 Hughes OH-6A, which is registered to his name. Sgt. Dave Drvenkar said Ruble suffered a broken back in the crash.

Troopers were called about the crash at 11:19 p.m. Friday, Grasle said. It was unclear when the aircraft actually went down.

A helicopter from the 68th Air Ambulance division at Fort Wainwright transported some of the injured to Fairbanks, according to Grasle. Sawyer was pronounced dead on arrival at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital shortly after 1 a.m.

Rotan reportedly suffered a head injury, but the extent of the groom's injuries was not clear. A nursing supervisor at Fairbanks Memorial said the three survivors were in satisfactory condition but declined to discuss their injuries.



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