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Investigation Continues After 5 Dead in Alaska Heliski Crash

Investigators have recovered the wreckage of the helicopter. The condition of the sole survivor, a former Olympic snowboarder, is improving. The pilot, two ski guides & two of the three passengers died. One of the dead is the Czech Republic billionaire, Petr Kellner.

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The sole survivor, the 48-year-old Czech snowboarder David Horváth, is said to be improving in hospital.

He is reported to be ‘conscious and resting comfortably’.

Investigators are hoping to talk to him shortly about what happened.

“It’s vital at this point right now,” said Clint Johnson from the National Transportation Safety Board to locla media.

First-person information “gives us a little bit of a roadmap to start with.”

The wreckage has now been recovered.

A team of six to eight investigators will be analysing the wreckage to try to discover the cause of the accident.

There are also two helicopter specialists on their way to Alaska.

One from the manufacturer of the air frame, Airbus, and the manufacturer of the engine, Safran Helicopter Engines.

The Eurocopter AS50 crashed about 50 miles east of Anchorage at 6.35pm on Saturday 27th March near the Knik Glacier.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but investigators will be concentrating on mechanical failure or pilot error.

Local press report the helicopter hit a ridge in the northern Chugach Mountain at 1,670m – it was 5m away from clearing it.

The helicopter then rolled 244-274 meters downhill.

The guests were from the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge.

A statement from lodge said this was the first time in its 17 years in business “we’ve had to face an event of this measure.”

“This news is devastating to our staff, the community in which we operate and the families of the deceased,” it added.

Rescue authorities said in a statement that they received a report of an overdue helicopter and the location of possible crash debris.

A rescue team from Alaska Rescue Coordination Centre was sent to the scene just after 10pm.

The team found five people dead and a sole survivor, who was taken to hospital in Anchorage.

The survivor is said to be in a “serious condition” and has been names as 48-year-old David Horvath, who is an ex-Olympic snowboarder.

The dead include two people from the Czech Republic, two from Alaska and one from the USA.

The pilot and two guides are among the dead.

One of the fatalities is the Czech billionaire, Petr Kellner, whose net worth has been estimated at $17.5 billion by Forbes.

He is said to have been the richest person in the country.

His investment company, PPF Group, has donated millions of respirators and masks and thousands of coronavirus testing kits and swabs to help the Czech Republic in the pandemic, the Czech news media reported.

The PPF Group has released a statement.

“With great sadness, PPF announces that on March 27, 2021, majority shareholder of PPF Mr. Petr Kellner tragically passed away in a helicopter accident in the Alaskan mountains.

“The incident, in which 5 lives were lost, is under investigation.

“Petr Kellner was 56 years old.

“His professional life was known for his incredible work ethic and creativity, but his private life belonged to his family.  His funeral will be held with only close family members.

“We please ask the media to respect the privacy of the Kellner family during this difficult time.”

Mr. Kellner was a frequent guest and friend of the lodge.

The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babis, paid tribute to Kellner.

“‘An unbelievable tragedy….I’m terribly sorry about it,” he said as he offered his condolences to the family.

The National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, in Alaska is investigating the cause of the accident.

NTSB member, Tom Chapman, said the aircraft was last heard from at 6:34 p.m. Saturday and reported overdue at about 8:30 p.m.

He said the team investigating the crash will look at airworthiness, operations, meteorology, structures, helicopter performance, recording devices and human performance.

“Our mission is to understand not just what happened, but why and to recommend changes to prevent it from happening again,” he said at a news conference.

The weather was clear at the time and the helicopter carried some type of recording equipment on board.

The names of the deceased have been released:

  • Gregory Harms, 52, of Colorado, USA.
  • Petr Kellner, 56, from the Czech Republic.
  • Benjamin Larochaix, 50, from the Czech Republic.
  • Sean McManamy, 38, of Girdwood, Alaska, USA.
  • Zachary Russel, 33, of Anchorage, Alaska , USA.
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