Helicopter runs into mechanical problems at crash site

Posted: Thursday, August 02, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The Army National Guard helicopter that ferried searchers and investigators to the wreckage of a sightseeing plane broke down at the crash site Wednesday, Alaska State Troopers said.

The team was waiting for the Coast Guard to deliver parts to repair the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, according to trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson. He said the helicopter wasn't expected to return to Juneau until 10 p.m. Wednesday at the earliest.

Wilkinson said the helicopter experienced mechanical difficulties as the team was preparing to depart.

No one was injured in the mishap that occurred where the Cherokee Six plane crashed Monday while on a flightseeing tour of the Glacier Bay National Park. All six aboard the plane operated by LAB Flying Service were killed.

Low clouds had forced another sightseeing plane to turn back moments before the Cherokee struck a rock face on the Davidson Glacier, a federal aviation official said.

Killed in the crash was pilot Chad Beers, 26, of Juneau; Marianne Cederberg, 55, of Toronto, who worked as a tour guide for JonView Canada.

Four German tourists were also killed. They were identified Wednesday as Helmut Auer, of Baden-Wurtemberg; Martin Federhofer, of Hamburg; and Uwe Kahlbohm, 59, and his wife, Siegrid, 65, of Bremerhaven.

About 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Blackhawk headed to the site with three members of Juneau Mountain Rescue, an National Transportation Safety Board investigator and a Federal Aviation Administration official.

The team was intending to recover the bodies and survey the wreckage for clues to the crash.

The five passengers were expected to be brought back to Juneau. The pilot's body would be taken to the State Medical Examiner's Office for autopsy, Wilkinson said.

In Monday's crash, the Cherokee impacted a rock pillar on the glacier after it took off from Skagway for a 90-minute sightseeing tour of the Glacier Bay National Park. The Coast Guard found the wreckage on a snowfield at about 5,000 feet elevation but poor visibility hampered attempts to land at the site on Tuesday.

Clint Johnson, an investigator with the NTSB told the Anchorage Daily News that a pilot in another LAB plane trailing the ill-fated flight turned back because of low visibility.

''He told the first pilot that he was going to take another route, and that's the last time they spoke,'' Johnson said. The pilot was not identified.

Beers did not issue a distress call in the moments before the crash, said Jim LaBelle, chief of the NTSB in Alaska. LaBelle also said other pilots had reported low visibility conditions.

The sky around Haines was overcast with a cloud ceiling at 7,000 feet and a 1,500-foot broken layer of clouds moving around the area on the afternoon of the crash, the National Weather Service said.

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