Dive team deployed after helicopter crashes into Alaska lake; all 4 on board presumed dead

Jul 22, 2023, 12:16 PM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A rescue and recovery dive team was deployed Saturday after a helicopter with a pilot and three state workers crashed in a large lake on Alaska’s North Slope, officials said.

No survivors have been located.

“The official word is, they are missing, presumed fatal,” said Clint Johnson, the chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska region.

An NTSB investigator was also en route to the accident scene Saturday as plans were being made to recover the wreckage from the water, he said. Challenges with the lake crash site and the availability of another helicopter in the area likely mean the aircraft won’t be raised from the middle of the shallow, 1-mile-wide (1.6-kilometer-wide) lake until Monday or Tuesday, Johnson said.

The downed helicopter had been chartered by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the department said in a statement Friday. It was carrying three employees from the Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey who had been conducting field work.

“DNR is praying for our employees and the pilot, their families, and the DNR team,” the statement said. “We are continuing to await updates from the search and rescue effort.”

Natural Resources Commissioner John Boyle flew to the crash site Friday night with a North Slope Search and Rescue spotter ahead of the recovery operation, said Lorraine Henry, a spokesperson for the state agency.

The Bell 206 helicopter was reported overdue Thursday night. A North Slope Borough search and rescue team in a helicopter found debris matching the description of the missing helicopter, D.J. Fauske, the borough’s director of government and external affairs, said in a text to The Associated Press on Friday.

Fauske did not immediately respond to a list of questions sent to him by email Saturday.

The helicopter’s wreckage was found in the lake near Wainwright, which is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Utqiagvik, the northernmost city in the U.S., formerly known as Barrow.

Johnson said because of where the helicopter came to rest, in the middle of the lake, they will have to use another helicopter to pull it out.

“This is going to be a helicopter recovery, no ifs, no ands, no buts, out in the middle of no place,” he said. That location, hundreds of miles north of Anchorage, also means helicopters are hard to come by.

“The helicopters up here are at an absolute premium,” he said.

Also complicating matters is that from the photographs he’s seen of the submerged helicopter, it’s in fragments, Johnson said.

The North Slope Borough requested that the Alaska State Troopers activate the Alaska Dive Search, Rescue and Recovery Team, troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel said in an email to The Associated Press.

The team was en route Saturday to Utqiagvik, located on the coast of the Arctic Ocean about 720 miles (1,159 kilometers) northwest of Anchorage. The borough is the primary agency coordinating efforts at the crash site, McDaniel said.

The helicopter flight originated in Utqiagvik and was supposed to return there, Johnson said, adding other details of the flight were not immediately available.

The helicopter was operated by Maritime Helicopters Inc., according to a statement on the company’s website. It confirmed the accident was fatal and said names of the pilot and passengers would be released pending notification of next of kin.


Associated Press writer Becky Bohrer in Juneau contributed.

United States News

Associated Press

Wildfire north of Los Angeles spreads as authorities issue evacuation orders

GORMAN, Calif. (AP) — Authorities issued evacuation orders Saturday as a wildfire in Los Angeles County spread thousands of acres close to a major highway and threatened nearby structures, officials said. The blaze that is being called the Post Fire burned more than 3,600 acres (5.6 square miles or 14.5 square kilometers) near the Interstate […]

17 minutes ago


Associated Press

Maine police kill armed man after standoff and house fires

Maine police fatally shot a man on a rooftop early Saturday after an hourslong standoff in which authorities said he opened fire at officers.

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Shooting at splash pad in Detroit suburb leaves ‘numerous wounded victims,’ authorities say

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Multiple people were wounded Saturday in a shooting at a splash pad in the Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills, authorities said. Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard told reporters that “it sounds like we have nine, maybe 10 victims with gunshot wounds, victims of varying kinds of injuries.” Authorities said they […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs returns key to New York City in response to video of him attacking singer Cassie

NEW YORK (AP) — Sean “ Diddy ” Combs has returned his key to New York City after a request from Mayor Eric Adams in response to the release of a video showing the music mogul attacking R&B singer Cassie, officials said Saturday. The mayor’s office said Combs returned the key after Adams sent letters […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Victim identified in Southern California homicide case, 41 years after her remains were found

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A victim whose skull was found by children in a Southern California city in 1983 has been identified 41 years after her remains were first discovered, authorities said. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department identified the victim Friday as Maritza Glean Grimmett, a Panamanian native who moved to the U.S. in […]

5 hours ago

A report published by a Native American-led nonprofit examines the dispossession of $1.7 trillion w...

Associated Press

Report finds Colorado was built on $1.7 trillion of expropriated tribal lands

A report published by a Native American-led nonprofit examines the dispossession of $1.7 trillion worth of tribal homelands in Colorado.

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

Dive team deployed after helicopter crashes into Alaska lake; all 4 on board presumed dead