by Phillip Manning
At approximately 10:00 pm on Saturday, March 30th, the Alaska State Troopers dispatched their AStar helicopter, Helo 1, to assist a stranded snowmachiner in the Larson Lake area. According to the trooper dispatch, the snowmachiner was picked up and the helicopter took off to rendezvous with medics at the Sunshine Tesoro. Helo 1 never arrived, however, and a search and rescue operation began for the overdue helicopter.
On the morning of March 31st, a Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) aircraft spotted the crashed helicopter near the south end of Larson Lake. RCC personnel searched for survivors, but none were found. The pilot, one Alaska State Trooper who was assisting in the rescue, and the snowmachiner are known to have been on board. The Department of Pubic Safety had not released the names of the crash victims as of the evening of March 31st.KTNA contacted Megan Peters, Public Information Officer for the Department of Public Safety, in an effort to obtain additional information. Peters was not able to specify whether the snowmachiner was a Talkeetna resident or whether the trooper on board was from the Talkeetna post. Peters also said there was no definitive cause identified as of Sunday evening, and that the investigation is ongoing. She called the incident an “extremely devastating blow,” to the search and rescue operations of the State Troopers, and stated that it will have an impact on residents all over the state. Peters said that while the helicopter can be replaced, the lives on board, and the experience and dedication they represented, are gone. The Troopers do still have helicopter rescue capability in the form of two Robinson 44 helicopters, but they are not capable of the lift capacity of the larger AStar that was lost. More information will be forthcoming as the Department of Public Safety releases it.