Copter crashes on Buttermilk slopes
A helicopter crashed on the slopes of Buttermilk Mountain shortly after 1 p.m. Friday afternoon while installing towers for the new West Buttermilk Express chair lift. No injuries were reported, and the pilot walked away from the crash, according to Michael Kendrick, a deputy with the Pitkin County Sheriffs Department who was the first emergency worker on the scene. The pilot, who has not been identified, was the only person aboard the helicopter.
“You would expect somebody to be injured in that type of crash,” said Kendrick, who is also a paramedic. The exact cause of the crash remains unknown, but Aspen Times photographer Paul Conrad, who was at Buttermilk earlier in the day shooting the installation of the towers, said he overheard the pilot complaining of low fuel pressure hours before the crash.Buttermilk’s mountain manager, Hans Hohl, declined to comment on the incident.
A large ring of debris surrounded the downed helicopter, which had rolled on its side near the intersection of Sabio and Lovers Lane, two ski runs directly underneath the Summit Express Lift on the mountain’s upper flanks. The nose and tail of the helicopter were both nearly severed, and the craft went down about 50 feet from the ski lift.Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive early Saturday morning to begin an investigation. Kendrick, who’s also a medic, said the pilot was walking around shortly after the crash and refused any medical care.
“A lot of things are lucky,” he said, referring to the lack of injuries and the fact the helicopter missed the nearby lift towers and cables. Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said the helicopter had installed 10 of the 19 towers for the West Buttermilk Express before the crash. The towers were laid out on the slopes of Sabio, which explains why the helicopter was in that area.
The helicopter was scheduled to complete the work on Buttermilk by Friday afternoon before moving over to Aspen Mountain on Saturday, where the new towers for the FIS chairlift await installation. The Poma Group, a world leader in cable transportation systems, is in charge of the installation. Central Copters Inc., based in Bozeman, Mont. owns the helicopter – a Huey 214.Hanle said the lift installation at Buttermilk and Aspen Mountain will be delayed until Tuesday at the earliest.
“We’re just happy the pilot was OK and nobody else was involved,” he said. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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