Update on fatal helicopter crash in Grand Teton National Park from NPS Digest this morning:
The Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Teton County Search and Rescue (TCSAR) were responding to the report of a snowmobile accident with an unresponsive rider on the afternoon of February 15th when radio contact was lost with the county’s contract helicopter. Reports were soon received that the helicopter had crashed.
The county quickly put out a mutual aid request for personnel, emergency medical assistance, and a unified incident command. In response to the request, the park’s Teton Interagency Dispatch Center assumed control of incident radio traffic and rangers coordinated the unified incident command and operation functions, including medical response, emergency helicopter responses from three separate locations, remote helibase operations with the park/forest interagency helitack staff, and logistical/critical incident support operations. A local plane also responded from the Jackson airport, but was unable to locate the helicopter’s wreckage.
Although injured, the helicopter pilot was able to struggle through deep snow to a high point, where he utilized a portable radio to reach the sheriff’s dispatch center and confirmed the crash. A Civil Air Patrol aircraft subsequently located the crash site by using GPS coordinates. Teton County deputies on snowmobiles reached the site first.
Two of the occupants, pilot Ken Johnson and TCSAR member Mike Moyer (who is also a battalion chief with Jackson Hole Fire/EMS), had suffered leg injuries; the third occupant, TCSAR member Ray Shriver, was fatality injured and subsequently died at the scene. Johnson and Shriver were evacuated by helicopter to a staging area located at Togwotee Mountain Lodge. Moyer was subsequently evacuated by snowmobile to the staging area, arriving after darkness. He and Johnson were transported by ambulances to the hospital in Jackson.
Following the conclusion of emergency evacuation and treatment operations, critical incident stress counselors from the park provided assistance to Teton County personnel and the park assumed SAR responsibility for the county at the request of the sheriff for 36 hours following the incident.
This event and Shriver’s death had a significant impact on the community and park. He was well known in the community and one of the founding members of the Teton County SAR team. This incident was complicated by deep snow, time of day, and night time temperatures at or below zero degrees. The cause of the helicopter crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
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