Smithers Search and Rescue called to last week’s fatal helicopter crash

Smithers Search and Rescue (SAR) were called to the scene of a grisly helicopter crash that claimed three lives in the Nelson Glacier near Stewart.

  • Aug. 5, 2011 8:00 a.m.

Smithers Search and Rescue (SAR) were called to the scene of a grisly helicopter crash that claimed three lives in the Nelson Glacier area near Stewart.

Stewart RCMP responded to the report of the crash late Sunday, July 31 and confirmed from the air that the three people who were on-board the aircraft had died.

The helicopter was operated by Vancouver Island Helicopters (VIH) and was in the area conducting a geological survey, according to a statement from VIH following the crash.

Smithers’ SAR were called to retrieve the bodies.

“Monday afternoon we got a call from [Emergency Coordination Centre in Victoria] and they asked for our assistance,” said Smithers SAR President Barry Finnegan.

A mountain rescue team was assembled and they immediately went to work planning out their operation. Due to weather they determined that the best course of action would be to go to the scene first thing on Aug. 2. That would also give them plenty of time to plan the operation.

“We left at first light on Tuesday, flew directly from Smithers via helicopter to the site.”

While the terrain proved to have some challenges, the recovery wasn’t impacted by conditions.

“It wasn’t too bad technically speaking,” said Finnegan, who added that there were steep slopes and loose rock where the bodies were. “We were able to get good access from the helicopter so we didn’t have to travel around a great deal on the slopes.”

Smithers’ SAR team was called over other possible groups in the Northwest simply because of their expertise in mountain rescue, said Finnegan.

“We have a lot of the expertise for that kind of an operation.”

The investigation into the crash is continuing by RCMP and the B.C. Coroners Service.

The victims in the crash was VIH pilot Randy Lambert, from Abbotsford, as well as two geological technicians of Coast Mountain Geological, Colin Dionne from Powell River and Mathiew Lefevbre-Masse of Victoria.

“We at Coast Mountain Geological are deeply shaken by the tragic accident that has taken the lives our dear teammates, Mathieu and Colin, as well as VIH’s pilot Randy,” said Coast Mountan Geological vice-president Christopher Basil. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to their families and loved ones. We remain committed to helping and supporting them through this difficult time.”

VIH said that they are committed to providing all resources possible as they focus on the family and friends of the victims.

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