Federal investigators, Airbus officials, and others are investigating a helicopter crash in a Southeastern Alaska bay that killed at least one person and critically injured a 14-year-old boy. Two other occupants of the helicopter were still missing as of Tuesday.
Alaska’s KTOO Public Media reports that Coast Guard rescuers located 14-year-old Aiden Pepperd near the helicopter crash site in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, about 120 miles northwest of Juneau. The boy had broken ribs and other internal injuries but was pulled from the icy water and flown to a hospital in Sitka for treatment, where he remains in intensive care.
Aiden’s 11-year-old brother Andrew Pepperd and father Josh Pepperd, 42, remained missing and presumed dead after days of searching. The body of David William King, 53, of Sutton, Alaska, was recovered on Friday in Lituya Bay near the helicopter crash site.
According to KTOO, Mr. Pepperd, the head of David Contractors and Engineers in Alaska, recently bought the new state-of-the-art Airbus H125 helicopter and took possession of it in Grand Prairie, Texas, on Wednesday. Mr. Pepperd and his sons and Mr. King were flying the helicopter to Anchorage when family members tracking the helicopter’s journey by its satellite-linked system notified authorities when the aircraft disappeared.
The U.S. Coast Guard said the pilot, whom they did not identify, reportedly had many decades of flying experience in both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. Investigators didn’t say what Mr. King’s role in the flight was, but he was the owner of Last Frontier Air Ventures, an Alaska company providing helicopter services for mineral exploration, surveying, research and development, cargo, video, film, and aerial photography projects, tours, and other operations. The Airbus H125 helicopter is often used by tour companies for flightseeing ventures.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are working with Airbus officials and the manufacturer of the helicopter’s engine at the scene of the helicopter crash to determine what could have caused the aircraft to plunge into the frigid bay.
The U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Air National Guard, National Park Service, Civil Air Patrol in Juneau, and Alaska State Troopers continue to search for Josh and Andrew Pepperd and collect crash debris.
According to KTOO, the helicopter shattered on impact. Parts of the fuselage, engine, rotorhead, and front and rear seats were scattered in the bay and along the shore.