Monday, January 27, 2014

Bell 206L-3 LongRanger III, N207DS, DBS Helicopters: Fatal accident occurred January 27, 2014 in Silt, Colorado

http://registry.faa.gov/N207DS

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA122 
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Monday, January 27, 2014 in Silt, CO
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/08/2015
Aircraft: BELL 206L 3, registration: N207DS
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The purpose of the flight was to perform low-level aerial surveillance of power transmission lines using an external gimbal-mounted infrared camera to detect problems with the patrolled power lines. While patrolling above a power line that passed through a valley, the helicopter struck another power line that crossed perpendicular to the helicopter’s flightpath and was at a higher elevation than the patrolled power line and ran from poles mounted atop higher terrain. The struck power line was not marked with high-visibility balls nor was it required to be. The sun was directly in front of the helicopter and 30 degrees above the horizon at the time of the accident, which likely made it difficult for the pilot to see the crossing wire. Postaccident examination of the helicopter did not reveal any preimpact anomalies. Given that this was a low-level surveillance flight of power transmission lines, the pilot should have familiarized himself with the power lines he was going to patrol and any other wires or obstructions in the area before the flight. It is likely that he did not adequately plan for the flight and that, if he had, he might have been aware of the power line and been able to avoid it.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot’s inadequate preflight planning for a low-level aerial surveillance flight of power transmission lines, which led to his being unaware of the crossing power line while flying toward the sun and his subsequent failure to maintain sufficient clearance from the wire.

HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On January 27, 2014, about 1118 mountain standard time, a Bell model 206L-3 helicopter, N207DS, was destroyed when it impacted a wire and terrain near Silt, Colorado. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to and operated by Delta Bravo Sierra Inc. under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as an on-demand air taxi flight. The helicopter was performing aerial surveillance of power transmission lines when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the Garfield County Regional Airport (RIL), Rifle, Colorado, about 1045.

The operator was contracted by Holy Cross Energy, a local power utility, to perform aerial surveillance of power transmission wires using an infrared camera to detect potential problem areas on the wires. The occupants of the helicopter consisted of the pilot, an employee of Holy Cross Energy, and an employee of HOT/SHOT Infrared Inspections, Inc. It was reported that the helicopter had completed one surveillance flight earlier in the day and landed at RIL where it was refueled before departing on the accident flight. The accident occurred about 3 miles east of RIL. The power lines that were being patrolled by the helicopter at the time of the accident ran through a valley in a predominately north-south direction. Another set of power lines owned by Xcel Energy ran in a predominately east-west direction and crossed above the Holy Cross Energy power lines. Two parallel static wires ran from the top of each Xcel Energy tower to the next tower. The Excel Energy towers were located atop higher terrain, and the Holy Cross Energy power lines ran through the valley between the Xcel Energy towers. The helicopter struck the south static wire of the Xcel Energy power lines and subsequently impacted the ground. A witness reported seeing the helicopter heading south just prior to the accident. The Xcel Energy power lines were estimated to be about 170 feet above the floor of the valley where the accident occurred.

According to a representative of HOT/SHOT Infrared Inspections, Inc., the contract with Holy Cross Energy required video recording of the entire flight. During examination of the wreckage, two recording devices were found and retained for further examination. One of the recording devices had a secure digital (SD) memory card installed. The SD card slot of the other recording device was empty. A second SD card was not located during the wreckage examination.

PERSONNEL INFORMATION
The pilot held a pilot certificate with a commercial pilot rating for helicopters and private pilot ratings for airplane single engine land and instrument airplane. He also held a second class medical certificate issued on April 18, 2013. The pilot reported a total of 8010 total flight hours at the time of his most recent medical examination.

AIRCRAFT INFORMATION
The helicopter was a Bell model 206L-3 helicopter, serial number 51546, manufactured in 1991. The helicopter had a single main rotor with a tail mounted anti-torque rotor. The helicopter was configured to carry six occupants, including the flight crew. The helicopter was powered by a single Rolls-Royce (Allison) Model 250-C30S engine, serial number CAE890513S, rated to produce 435 maximum shaft horsepower.

A review of the maintenance records indicated that the helicopter had accumulated 5,129.7 hours total time as of the date of the last inspection on January 23, 2014. The engine had accumulated 12,463.6 hours total time as of the same date. The records showed that the engine had been installed on the helicopter on September 22, 2010.

METEOROLOGICAL INFORMATION
Weather conditions recorded by the RIL Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS), located about 3 miles west of the accident site, at 1053, were: wind calm, visibility 10 statute miles, scattered clouds at 11,000 feet agl, temperature -2 degrees Celsius, dew point -9 degrees Celsius, and altimeter 30.02 inches of mercury.

FLIGHT RECORDERS
The helicopter was equipped with an external gimbal mounted infrared camera (IR). Additionally, two digital video recorders were located within the wreckage along with a GeoStamp+ device. The GeoStamp+ was used to overlay video footage from the IR camera with information such as GPS location and time. The two DVR's each had a slot for insertion of a secure digital (SD) memory card. One of the DVR's contained a SD card and the other did not. The DVR's, SD card, and Geostamp+ device, were retained for further examination. Examination of the components revealed that the only recordable media present was the SD card, which contained three files. Two of the files were not pertinent to the accident flight. The third file contained video footage of the accident flight along with audio from the radio communications and the helicopter's intercom system.

The recording of the accident flight began when the helicopter was already airborne. Voices of the helicopter's occupants could be heard throughout the flight. For the majority of the flight, the helicopter followed a series of power lines through various terrain. Throughout the flight, casual and professional conversation was audible between the two passengers.

At 11:15:20 (hh:mm:ss), the crew members discussed turning right to follow a perpendicular set of power lines and return later to capture a previous data point. The helicopter turned right and the crewmembers carried out casual conversation for the remainder of the flight.

At 11:16:21, a pair of deer came into the view of the IR camera. During this time, one of the occupants remarked "See the deer?" and another occupant responded "where?". A follow-up remark was heard: "See the white things on the screen", followed ultimately by an acknowledgement.

At 11:16:29, intersecting power lines came into view of the IR camera. Immediately after the power lines passed, the video began to shale, with expletives heard in the background. The camera shaking intensified and discordant audio was audible until the recording ended at 11:16:36.

WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
The helicopter's wreckage was located in a valley between hills. There was scattered snow cover on the terrain. There were two sets of crossing power lines in the area of the accident site. One set of power lines ran predominately north-south on single wooden poles. The second set of power lines ran predominately east-west and were suspended on dual support pole structures. There were two static lines at the top of each pole and the power transmission lines ran below the static lines. The east-west power lines were higher than the set that ran north-south. It was reported that the south static line of the east-west running lines was severed. The helicopter was reported to have been conducting power line patrol operations on the lower north-south running set of power lines.

The helicopter came to rest on its left side facing west. The main fuselage structure exhibited crushing in an upward/right direction that was consistent with an impact on the left bottom of the fuselage. The tail boom was separated from the fuselage. The tail boom was broken into two pieces. The forward portion of the tail boom to include the horizontal stabilizer was located about 150 feet from the main wreckage. The aft portion of the tail boom including the tail rotor gearbox and tail rotor was located near the main wreckage. The landing gear skid tubes were separated from the cross tubes. The left skid tube was broken approximately where the forward cross tube attached. The cross tubes were broken loose from their mounts to the fuselage with the forward cross tube completely separated. The rear cross tube remained within the fuselage penetration for the tube, but was not attached. Both main rotor blades were separated from their roots. The root section of each blade remained attached to the blade grips which remained attached to the hub. The hub remained attached to the mast which was still connected to the main rotor gearbox. Various aircraft components were found around the area of the accident site.

The wreckage of the helicopter was moved to an indoor facility for further examination. Examination of the helicopter's control system was conducted. The collective controls were predominately intact from the collective stick to the point of attachment at the hydraulic actuator on top of the fuselage. The anti-torque pedals on the right side were separated from the pushrod. The pushrod system was intact to the bellcrank at the bottom of the vertical pushrod tunnel. The vertical pushrod within the vertical pushrod tunnel was separated from the rod end at the bottom. The pushrod system through the tunnel at the top of the fuselage was not examined due to crush damage that prevented exposure of the area. The pushrod that ran from the bellcrank just aft of the rear cabin bulkhead was still attached to a portion of the bellcrank. The bellcrank arm was broken. The aft end of this pushrod was still attached to the next bellcrank at the bottom. The upper part of the bellcrank was still attached to the pushrod that ran through the tailboom but the pushrod was broken into several pieces. One break coincided with the forward separation point of the tailboom. The pieces of the pushrod were matched and a section of the pushrod was found to be missing during the wreckage review. The missing portion was approximately 2 feet in length and is presumed to have remained at the wreckage site, possibly obscured by snow. The aft rod end of the pushrod was fractured. The threaded portion remained in the pushrod while the spherical rod end portion remained attached to the bellcrank on the tail rotor gearbox. The tail rotor gearbox was separated from the tail boom. The tail rotor would turn when rotating the input shaft of the tail rotor gearbox. Actuation of the bellcrank confirmed actuation of the pitch angle of the tail rotor blades. The cyclic system was examined and the yoke that connects the right and left cyclic sticks to the mixer at the bottom of the vertical pushrod tunnel was fractured into 3 pieces. The yoke remained attached to the mixer and the right cyclic. The fractures were in the arm of the yoke connecting the left cyclic. The two vertical cyclic pushrods within the broom closet remained attached at both the mixer and the connection above the fuselage near the hydraulic actuator. All of the various control linkages on top of the fuselage remained attached and intact up to the swash plate. The ears where the pitch change links to the main rotor blades attached had broken loose from the rotating portion of the swash plate. The upper portion of one pitch change link pushrod remained attached to the bellcrank on the blade grip. The lower portion of this link along with the broken ear from the swash plate was found on top of the fuselage. The upper rod end and pushrod barrel for the other pitch change link remained attached to the bellcrank on the blade grip. The remainder of this pitch change pushrod was not found.

No anomalies were found with respect to the flight control system that could be attributed to a pre-impact condition.

The tail rotor driveshaft components were located and laid out on the shop floor. All of the bearing mounts had been separated from the tailboom with the exception of the most aft hanger bearing. Five sections of the tail rotor driveshaft were recovered. One section was not located during the exam and is presumed to have remained at the accident site.
Examination of the rotor mast revealed a spiral scrape through the paint that started just above the swash plate and progressed upward toward the blade hub. The lower fixed portion of the swash plate assembly was fractured. The main rotor blades rotated when rotation of the input coupling was performed.

No anomalies were found with respect to the drive system components that could be attributed to a pre-impact condition.

The engine was removed from the helicopter for further examination. Both the compressor and power turbine could be rotated by hand with no binding or scraping detected. The compressor and turbine blades that were visible showed no abnormalities. The N2 drive train was free and continuous from the 4th stage power turbine wheel to the N2 tachometer generator gearbox. The N1 drive train was continuous from the compressor to the N1 tachometer generator gearbox. The power turbine governor sustained impact damage. The upper and lower chip detectors were clean when removed. No fuel was found in the inlet line on the fuel control. The fuel line between the check valve and the fuel nozzle contained a small amount of fuel.

No anomalies were found with respect to the engine or its systems that could be attributed to a pre-impact condition.

The forward fuselage, upper and lower wire strike cutters, and the center spine of the windshield showed no evidence of a wire impact.

The tail rotor driveshaft cover had marks consistent with a main rotor blade impact.

MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
A postmortem autopsy of the pilot was performed by Rocky Mountain Forensic Services, PLLC. The autopsy report indicated the cause of death as multiple injuries consistent with the reported circumstances.

Toxicology testing was performed by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. Testing results were negative for all substances in the screening profile.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The power lines that were struck were not marked with high-visibility marking balls. Federal regulations establish standards for determining obstructions to air navigation. 14 CFR 77.23 states, in part:

(a) An existing object, including a mobile object, is, and a future object would be, an obstruction to air navigation if it is of greater height than any of the following heights or surfaces:
(1) A height of 500 feet above ground level at the site of the object.
(2) A height that is 200 feet above ground level or above the established airport elevation, whichever is higher, within 3 nautical miles of the established reference point of an airport, excluding heliports, with its longest runway more than 3,200 feet in actual length, and that height increases in the proportion of 100 feet for each additional nautical mile of distance from the airport up to a maximum of 500 feet.

The accident occurred about 3.2 nautical miles from RIL, which had a runway measuring 7,000 feet in length.The airport elevation was 5,537 feet, and the elevation at the accident site was about 5,525 feet. The wires that were struck were about 170 feet above the accident site elevation.

At the time of the accident the sun was about 30 degrees above the horizon at an azimuth of 162 degrees. The flight path of the helicopter at the time of the accident was about 165 degrees, placing the sun directly in front of the helicopter.

NTSB Identification: CEN14FA122
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Monday, January 27, 2014 in Silt, CO
Aircraft: BELL 206L 3, registration: N207DS
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On January 27, 2014, about 1118 mountain standard time, a Bell model 206L-3 helicopter, N207DS, was destroyed when it impacted a wire and terrain near Silt, Colorado. The pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The aircraft was registered to and operated by Delta Bravo Sierra Inc. under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as an on-demand air taxi flight. The helicopter was performing aerial surveillance of power tansmission lines when the accident occurred. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was not on a flight plan. The local flight originated from the Garfield County Regional Airport (RIL), Rifle, Colorado about 1045.

The operator was contracted by Holy Cross Energy, a local power utility, to perform aerial surveillance of power transmission wires using an infrared camera to detect potential problem areas on the wires. The occupants of the helicopter consisted of the pilot, an employee of Holy Cross Energy, and an employee of HOT/SHOT Infrared Inspections, Inc. It was reported that the helicopter had completed one surveillance flight earlier in the day and landed at RIL where it was refueled before departing on the accident flight. The accident occurred about 3 miles east of RIL. The power lines that were being surveilled by the helicopter at the time of the accident ran in a predominately north-south direction. Another set of power lines owned by Xcel Energy ran in a predominately east-west direction and crossed above the Holy Cross Energy power lines. Two parallel static wires ran from the top of each Xcel Energy tower to the next tower. The helicopter struck the south static wire and subsequently impacted the ground. A witness reported seing the helicopter heading south just prior to the accident.

According to a representative of HOT/SHOT Infrared Inspections, Inc., the contract with Holy Cross Energy required video recording of the entire flight. During examination of the wreckage, two recording devices were found and retained for further examination. One of the recording devices had a secure digital (SD) memory card installed. The SD card slot of the other recording device was empty. A second SD card was not located during the wreckage examination. 



Larry Shaffer



Doug Sheffer 
DBS Helicopters


The two passengers who died when a helicopter crashed during a power line inspection south of Silt on Monday morning have been identified b y the Garfield County Coroner’s Office as Larry Shaffer, 51, of Rifle and Christopher Gaskill of Aurora, whose age has not been confirmed.

 The two men were killed along with pilot and Basalt resident Doug Sheffer of the Rifle-based company DBS Helicopters at about 11:20 a.m. Monday, when one of Sheffer’s helicopter blades apparently caught a power line and his aircraft crashed into a ravine.

All three men died at the scene of the crash, according to community relations deputy Walt Stowe of the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. An official at the Rifle Funeral Home said autopsies of the three men were ongoing on Tuesday afternoon.

Shaffer was a crew foreman and a lineman for Holy Cross Energy, whose lines the trio were inspecting when the crash occurred on Monday. He had worked for Holy Cross for 28 years, according to a press release issued by the company on Tuesday.

Shaffer’s work, according to the press release, consisted of everything from installing underground and above-ground power lines to servicing and maintaining lines and responding to power outages.

“ ... Larry was well respected by the members of his crew and best known for his infectious grin, welcoming smile and positive attitude,” reads the press release.
“He was down to earth with a work ethic unmatched by anyone. He was not afraid to get dirty … not afraid of work. It was hard to keep up with him,” said Daniel Nunn, a crew member and friend of Shaffer’s, in the release.

Shaffer is survived by his wife Jo, his children Dane, Cole and Stefanie, and two grandchildren (Dane’s children) Hannah and Blake. A fund to support his family has been established in Sheffer’s name at Alpine Bank, and donations can be submitted to any area branch.

Gaskill worked as a thermographer, or heat inspector, for the Ft. Collins based company Hot/Shot Infrared Inspections. At the time he was killed, he and Shaffer were inspecting lines between Dubuque and Glenwood Springs, looking for areas carrying excessive electrical current and generating heat.

The work was meant to improve the efficiency of Holy Cross transmission lines, and it involved flying with Shaffer about 30 feet above 50-foot-tall utility poles, according to a press release issued by Holy Cross energy last week. After finishing in Glenwood Springs on Monday evening, the trio had been due to proceed east toward the Crystal Valley and Aspen on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

A call to Hot/Shot Infrared Inspections seeking information about Gaskill’s background was not returned by press time.

Monday’s crash took place about 1.5 miles south of Silt, near the 1.6-mile marker of County Road 331, also known as Dry Hollow Road.

Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, although it remains unclear when preliminary results of the investigation will be released.


http://www.aspendailynews.com






 Pilot Doug Sheffer performs a preflight inspection of his helicopter before an afternoon charter flight in this 2007 file photo from a "Day in the Life" special section. The photo was submitted by Paul Rinker.





This view of the power line involved the fatal chopper crash on Monday is looking toward the southwest from above the crash site, which is out of sight in the ravine about two-thirds of the way up the photo below the power line.




 Emergency personnel respond to the site of a fatal helicopter crash on Monday on Dry Hollow Road south of Silt. Two men at the far lower left of the photo examine what appears to be a piece of sheet metal. The road was blocked about a mile from the site. All three people on board the helicopter died in the crash, according to authorities.




 Authorities with Garfield County Road and Bridge, the Sheriff's Office and the Colorado State Patrol man a roadblock about a mile north of Monday's fatal helicopter crash near Dry Hollow Road south of Silt. The road was closed for about five hours as the crash site was examined.




 SILT ­— Three people, including longtime local helicopter pilot Doug Sheffer, were killed Monday morning during a routine aerial inspection of power lines south of here when a helicopter snagged a line and crashed. 

 Authorities did not release the names of the other two people killed in the crash, although one reportedly worked for Holy Cross Energy.

All three of the people killed were on board the helicopter when it crashed, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Lou Vallario confirmed Monday afternoon upon returning from the crash scene that Sheffer, the owner and chief pilot for DBS Helicopters based out of the Rifle-Garfield County Airport, was among those killed.

“I’ve known Doug for a lot of years, since I first became sheriff,” Vallario said. “He was certainly a top-notch pilot and good friend, and was instrumental in a lot of search and rescue efforts.”

Sheffer often worked with the Sheriff’s Office, Garfield Search and Rescue, Mountain Rescue out of Aspen, and other agencies in a variety of operations, including searches for people lost or missing in the rugged mountains of central Colorado.

“Because of Doug we were able to rescue many people that we might not otherwise have been able to,” Vallario said. “He is definitely going to be missed.”

The BELL LongRanger helicopter belonging to Sheffer and DBS had been contracted by Holy Cross Energy for a three-day operation that started Monday to monitor and check for trouble spots along power lines within the Glenwood Springs-based utility’s service area.

According to Sheffer’s biography on the DBS website, he had 22 years of piloting experience and more than 8,000 hours in the air in mountain areas above 8,000 feet elevation.

Sheffer was also a founding parent at the private Waldorf School on Roaring Fork, which started in Aspen and is now located near Carbondale.

His daughter graduated from the school in 2002, said Karla Comey, faculty administrator at the Waldorf School, who was in touch with family members after the accident.

“He has been instrumental in supporting our school from the beginning,” Comey said. “We dearly love him, and send him on his way with much love and light for his transition. We hold him in the same regard as he did other people.”

Airplane pilot and friend Bruce Gordon of Aspen-based EcoFlight posted on Facebook upon learning of the tragedy:

“Doug was one of a kind, from being the very best of human beings, to being a wonderful husband and father, and exceptional friend and mentor in every kind of life skill.”

Added filmmaker Anson Fogel in another Facebook post, “…anyone who has filmed a lot in these mountains has ridden in his helicopter — he was a key part of the film business in Colorado.”

The crash happened at 11:18 a.m. Monday where the shared Holy Cross and Xcel Energy power lines cross Dry Hollow Road about 1.6 miles south of Silt, according to Garfield Sheriff’s spokesman Walt Stowe.

Deputies and other emergency officials were on the scene within five minutes, he said.

“There were citizens on site when the crash happened, and they were the first ones there,” Stowe said. He indicated that one of the people on the scene knew all three people aboard the helicopter.

Throughout the early afternoon, most vehicles were turned back at a roadblock about a mile north of the crash site on Dry Hollow Road (CR 331). Holy Cross trucks and a pickup from DBS Helicopters were allowed through.

At one point, a man who had identified himself at the checkpoint as being from Holy Cross hugged two other men for a few moments before they got into vehicles and drove toward the crash site.

The site where the crash occurred is in steep, hilly, snow-covered terrain. The power line at the site spans a broad, deep ravine where the road winds through a small canyon. The actual crash site, which was not visible from other roads in the area or the roadblock, was down a steep embankment along the road.

The county road was closed for several hours immediately after the crash, but was later reopened to traffic.

Site guarded

Numerous emergency vehicles and personnel from multiple agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office and Colorado River Fire Rescue, will remain in the vicinity helping to maintain security overnight.

National Transportation Safety Board and FAA officials were expected to arrive Tuesday to conduct their investigation, Vallario said.

The crash also caused power outages in the area, which workers from both Holy Cross and Xcel Energy were working to restore, he said.

The power line monitoring is part of an ongoing effort that was to continue through Wednesday to gauge the health of the Holy Cross grid and reduce outages, according to a press release sent out last week by Holy Cross Energy and DBS Helicopters.

DBS was working with HotShot Infrared Inspections of Fort Collins to survey 250 miles of transmission lines from the air. The team was using infrared photography to identify potential trouble spots on power lines and at substation facilities.

Sheffer and Holy Cross officials explained the power line inspection project in a news release sent out last week, so that the public would be aware of the operation.

Helicopters were to be flying about 30 feet above the transmission poles, which are approximately 50 feet tall, he said.

The helicopters were to be traveling anywhere from 25 to 40 miles per hour.

“Unless a problem area is located, a person on the ground will just see and hear a low-flying helicopter passing by,” according to the news release.

If a problem is encountered, the helicopter would circle back and hover for a few minutes to record the area with video, still shots and a GPS coordinate.

“It will then proceed along the line and away from that neighborhood,” according to the news release.

“Believe me, those two to three minutes will seem more like 10 minutes,” Sheffer commented in the release. “Our goal is to linger as little as possible at any one point during these three days.”

West Elk Mountain Rescue and Western State College mountain rescue team help Doug Sheffer, from DBS Helicopters, rescue an injured climber.

Something about helicopter pilots chasing bank robbers, busting spies and saving castaways impressed six-year-old Doug Sheffer. The Whirlybirds television episodes, over 50 years ago, were heroic and exciting and everything he seemed born to do. While his father tried to waylay those childish ambitions, it wasn’t too many decades before Sheffer had owned his own fleet of choppers, a crew of pilots and a backlog of dangerous jobs throughout western Colorado.

A few weeks ago, Sheffer, now owner and sole pilot of DBS Helicopters based out of Grand Junction, Colo., received a call from a Gunnison County sheriff about a hiker that had been found below Snowmass Peak in the West Elk Mountains of Western Colorado. Jeff Lodico, separated from his party, took a bad fall and spent the night out in the cold. When wilderness responders from West Elk Mountain Rescue and Western State Colorado mountain rescue team found him, he had broken all the fingers on one hand, his wrist, his arm, all of his ribs and a lower leg. He had a punctured lung and his skull was fractured. I couldn’t help but watch video of the rescue with awe.

Sheffer honed his helicopter skills after facing ridiculous environmental conditions generated by the West’s extreme geological formations. He took Helicopter Aircrew Training System courses in British Columbia from flight instructors who train Chinook and Blackhawk pilots for the most sophisticated military missions, including navigating unique wind currents along sheer mountainsides. He’d need all that training to rescue Lodico.

I spoke with Sheffer about the rescue and about his work last week. He doesn’t drink. He’s not crazy, and he speaks with a level of calculation and continuity I’ve only heard in aviators.

Read more here:  http://www.hcn.org/hcn/blogs/goat/flight-for-life  



Doug Sheffer, chief pilot and owner of DBS Helicopters, stands in front his helicopter at the Maroon Bells after assisting Mountain Rescue Aspen in the summer of 2012. Sheffer died on Monday after his helicopter crashed in Silt.


Doug Sheffer, well respected mountain rescue pilot, killed during powerline inspection 


A routine inspection of power lines maintained by Holy Cross Energy appears to have gone terribly wrong late Monday morning when the helicopter that inspectors were using crashed, killing everyone on board.

Doug Sheffer, the owner and chief pilot for DBS Helicopters of Rifle, was among the dead, according to friends and colleagues of his with close knowledge of the crash.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has not released the names of the other two people on board, although spokesman Walter Stowe said that they apparently died at the scene.

Sheffer was a well-known, well-respected helicopter pilot in the region, who frequently flew high country rescue missions with Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA).

“We are shocked to hear the news,” said MRA director Jeff Edelson. “He was a very talented pilot, and we used him on many missions up on high peaks, performing dangerous rescues.

“Doug and the DBS team were a very important resource for us,” Edelson said. “My heart goes out to his friends and family.”

The crash apparently happened when the helicopter’s blade hooked a power line and was sent careening to the ground, according to Stowe.

First responders got a call from an eyewitness to the crash around 11:20 a.m. Monday, Stowe said. The crash took place about 1.5 miles south of Silt, near the 1.6 mile marker of Dry Hollow Road.

Stowe said that as of 2 p.m., emergency responders from the sheriff’s office and the Bureau of Land Management’s Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit were on the scene working to extricate the victims from the helicopter’s wreckage.

Holy Cross Energy had contracted with DBS Helicopters and HotShot Infrared Inspections of Ft. Collins to inspect 250 miles of its power lines between Dubuque and Aspen. The goal of the inspections was to search for so-called “hot spots,” or areas handling substantial electrical current and giving off heat that could pose a fire hazard in the summer months.

Stowe said there would likely be an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board or another federal agency into the crash, although he didn’t have details on which agency would perform the investigation.

County Road 331 is closed on either side of the crash site; traffic is being directed to alternate routes. It is expected that the road will remain closed for the next 12 to 48 hours until all site investigations are complete.

This story will be updated as information becomes available. 



Westport Native Dies in Colorado Helicopter Crash 



Doug Sheffer, Westport native, Staples High school graduate, and brother of well known Westport arts advocate Ann Sheffer, died today in a Colorado helicopter crash, according to friends and colleagues.
 

He was among three people confirmed dead in the crash, which apparently occurred when the helicopter snapped a power line and crashed about a mile south of Silt, Colo., authorities said

Sheffer was owner and chief pilot of DBS Helicopters of Rifle, Colo., and was a well-known and well-respected aviator in the region, news reports said. He frequently flew high country rescue missions with Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA).

The helicopter was part of a fleet that began monitoring power lines in the area, according to a news release last week from the company.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has not released the names of the other two people on board, although spokesman Walter Stowe said that they apparently died at the scene.

“We are shocked to hear the news,” said MRA director Jeff Edelson. “He was a very talented pilot, and we used him on many missions up on high peaks, performing dangerous rescues.

“Doug and the DBS team were a very important resource for us,” Edelson said. “My heart goes out to his friends and family.”

Sheffer was a 1968 graduate of Staples High School and spent many years supervising sailing at the Longshore Sailing School.

According to his company’s website, he had 22 years and more than 8,000 hours of experience in the high-country, mountains above 8,000 feet.

“He has completed 10 BELL Helicopter Training Academy Initial and Refresher courses plus an Advanced Flying Skills course geared towards accident prevention,” his biography said.

“He also is a graduate of the Mountain Flying and Vertical Reference courses with Canadian Helicopter, the acknowledged leader in civilian mountain helicopter flight training, and he recently returned from Flight Safety International’s 206 Recurrent training course spending three days in a simulator practicing emergency procedures.”

Ann Sheffer, who also maintains a home in Palm Springs, Calif. with husband Bill Scheffler, was said by friends to be en route to Aspen from Palm Springs.

Source:   http://www.westportnow.com

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