Helicopter 'disintegrated' in fiery N.W.T. crash: paramedic
A Tulita man killed in a helicopter crash near Norman Wells, N.W.T., over the weekend died as a result of the intense flames that engulfed the downed aircraft, according to RCMP and a paramedic who was on the scene.
RCMP confirmed Monday that Alvin Yallee, a passenger on the Sahtu Helicopters Hughes 500D aircraft, died in the Saturday morning crash, which occurred near Doctor Lake, about 70 kilometres northwest of Norman Wells.
The small mining town of Norman Wells is about 700 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.
They also confirmed that the helicopter's female pilot and another male passenger suffered unspecified injuries. They were flown to hospitals in Yellowknife and Edmonton for treatment.
Co-workers identified the surviving passenger as Don Morrison, a driller working at a mineral claim held by Patrician Diamonds Inc. Morrison was credited with pulling the pilot, who has not been named, out of the wreckage.
"From our understanding, one of the passengers got out of the helicopter and pulled the pilot out of the helicopter away from the scene. And then the second helicopter arrived and assisted them," RCMP Insp. Kevin Violot told CBC News on Monday.
Morrison was treated and released in Yellowknife. The pilot's name was withheld at the family's request.
The aircraft, which belonged to a subsidiary of Yellowknife-based Great Slave Helicopters, was carrying Yallee and his co-worker from the Kelly Lake mining exploration camp north of Norman Wells when it crashed, according to a company news release.
Violot said the crashed helicopter was on fire, and the flames were too intense for the injured passenger to rescue Yallee. A similar account of the incident was given by Ted Soucie, who was one of the first medical responders on the scene.
"The [helicopter] was disintegrated by fire and was smouldering," Soucie told CBC News in an e-mail Monday, adding that Yallee was "cremated" in the burning aircraft.
"The heli fireballed, and the intense heat generated by jet fuel would have radiated some distance," he wrote.
Soucie, who was based at the Kelly Lake camp, said he set out for the crash site around 9:30 a.m. MT Saturday, landing his rescue helicopter nearly half a kilometre from the crash site because of the rugged terrain.
Trio to crash scene
He and two managers from the exploration company hiked to the crash scene, where, Soucie said, he found the dead passenger and two injured people.
"One injured, the drill manager, was able to walk to [the rescue] heli aided by two helpers," he wrote.
"The pilot was put on a spine board, immobilized and carried by basket to heli and [taken by] air to Norman Wells, then Yellowknife, then Edmonton."
Investigators from the federal Transportation Safety Board were at the site Monday trying to find out what caused the crash.
Great Slave Helicopters, owned by Discovery Air, operates in close proximity to oil and gas activity in the Mackenzie Valley and mining operations at Lac de Gras, according to the company's website.
The website says the company's fleet includes more than 75 aircraft and employs more than 200 people.