Pi­lot dies in he­li­copter crash, chop­per crashed into B.C. artist’s shed

The Prince George Citizen - - News - Laura KANE

CAMP­BELL RIVER, B.C. — A pi­lot of a com­mer­cial he­li­copter has died af­ter a crash that struck a re­spected In­dige­nous carver’s stu­dio and nar­rowly missed the artist on Vancouver Is­land.

RCMP Const. Maury Tyre said the pi­lot was the only per­son on board when the chop­per crashed Tues­day in Camp­bell River. The vic­tim’s iden­tity is not be­ing re­leased for pri­vacy rea­sons.

“Our deep­est sym­pa­thies go out to the fam­ily of the vic­tim and to the he­li­copter com­pany as well, know­ing that typ­i­cally they’re a very tight-knight com­mu­nity,” he said. “It’s very sad when an ac­ci­dent like this hap­pens.”

Tyre said the cause is un­known, but WorkSafe BC, the Trans­porta­tion Safety Board, and the pro­vin­cial coroners ser­vice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Keshia Malone, the great-niece of artist Bill Hen­der­son, said he was in his carv­ing shed and hap­pened to get up from the chair where he nor­mally works when the he­li­copter crashed into the struc­ture.

The chop­per struck the top cor­ner of the shed right above the chair and the pro­pel­ler blade went through the roof, she said.

“Had he not got­ten up out of his chair, it prob­a­bly would have been a lot worse,” Malone said.

Hen­der­son, in his late 60s, is a mem­ber of the Wei Wai Kum First Na­tion and his masks, bowls, pad­dles and other carv­ings are col­lected around the world.

Malone said he was do­ing all right but is feel­ing shaken up and emo­tional, and doesn’t want to speak with me­dia.

His neph­ews were out­side the shed work­ing on a totem pole close to where the crash hap­pened but also es­caped un­scathed, said Malone.

“I was in my house across the street and all I heard was this huge, loud bang, kind of like a ve­hi­cle had hit a build­ing but it was a lot louder than that,” she said.

“The next thing you hear is some­body yelling, ‘Call 911! Call 911!’ The next thing you know is the smoke and you smell the jet fuel. Ev­ery­thing hap­pened all at once.”

There was sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to part of the carv­ing shed and Malone wasn’t sure whether any art was dam­aged.

She said her fam­ily’s thoughts were with the pi­lot.

“Our con­do­lences go out to his fam­ily,” she said.

The crash hap­pened in the Tyee Spit area, which is home to sev­eral avi­a­tion com­pa­nies. Po­lice said the com­mer­cial he­li­copter was locally owned but did not re­lease the com­pany name.

The Trans­porta­tion Safety Board said the ac­ci­dent in­volved a Bell 206 he­li­copter and it is de­ploy­ing a team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors to the site. WorkSafe BC said it al­ready has a safety of­fi­cer at the scene.

Bri­tish Columbia Emer­gency Health Ser­vices said it re­ceived an emer­gency call just af­ter 11 a.m. about a he­li­copter crash in the Vancouver Is­land com­mu­nity.

The agency dis­patched sev­eral crews, but its re­sources were scaled back once they ar­rived and only one para­medic crew re­mained as a pre­cau­tion. It said no one was taken to hospi­tal.

The coroners ser­vice con­firmed it’s been no­ti­fied of one fa­tal­ity and is in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

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