Search for wreckage of helicopter continues; autopsy reveals no clues

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Crews continued the search Monday for the wreckage of the helicopter that crashed into Cook Inlet Oct. 18 and the bodies of two of those still missing, while an autopsy of the pilot yielded no clues to the cause of the crash.

''We're using every resource at our disposal to pinpoint where the helicopter should be,'' Era Aviation spokeswoman Marcia Davis said.

Preliminary results from the state medical examiner's office Monday found that pilot Bob Larson, 60, drowned. The exam also found that he had suffered several broke ribs and a broken leg. The report concluded there was no indication that any physical condition may have led to the crash.

Federal Aviation Administration employees Joyce Tucker of Anchorage and Ronald Frizzell of Wasilla remain missing and are presumed dead. Two other FAA employees, Steven Durand and William Dick, both of Anchorage, survived the crash.

The Bell 206 LongRanger was carrying the four FAA employees to Anchorage from Fire Island, where they had done maintenance on FAA navigation aids. The chopper went down in a snowstorm.

Era Aviation launched three boats Monday to continue the search for the helicopter. One of the boats was from Terra Services while the others were on loan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Davis said.

One of the boats is equipped with side-directed sonar, while two others are equipped with directional hydrophones designed to pick up the pinging sound from the emergency locator beacon.

''The ping is being generated by a battery-powered sound device. Given the temperatures in Cook Inlet, our expectation is the battery should give us a good, strong signal for 30 days,'' Davis said.

However, crews were unable to detect the signal Monday, she said.

The searchers were also aided by a professional oceanographer who has studied the tidal fluctuations of Cook Inlet.

Era also planned to send a helicopter up at low tide to search for the wreckage, weather permitting.

Davis said searchers were running out of time because low tide would soon be occurring in darkness.

''We have some significant restrictions on the time period we can do our searches,'' Davis said.

If the wreckage of the chopper is found, crews would attach buoys to it so it could be readily located and recovered by a salvage vessel, Davis said.

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