it was on March 30, 2013, that an Alaska State Trooper, a state pilot, and a private citizen were killed in the crash in the Alaska Department of Public Safety's helicopter, Helo-1 near Talkeetna.
Helo-1 went down during a search and rescue mission after they located and picked up a stranded snowmachiner near Talkeetna in the spring of 2013. According to reports, the Department of Public Safety helicopter went down 7 minutes after takeoff from the remote location in a fiery crash that took the lives of all three aboard the aircraft. the weather was reported as “foul” at the time of the crash. Those same weather conditions hampered recovery efforts until midmorning the next day.
Killed in the crash was veteran pilot, 55-year-old Mel Nading, of Anchorage, 40-year-old Alaska state trooper Tage Toll, and 56-year-old Talkeetna man Carl Ober.
Although the fire destroyed a majority of the aircraft, NTSB investigators were able to recover the cockpit-imaging and flight-data monitoring device and a global positioning system from the wreckage. Those items were sent to the NTSB Vehicle Resources Laboratory in Washington DC.
The department stated today, that it has since examined its aviation practices to help ensure that families will never have to go through this again. The department reports that it has worked with the National Transportation Safety Board to determine the cause of the crash, but the cause still has yet to be determined.
The Department of Public Safety’s aircraft section operates under the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers. That department provides DPS with aircraft to complete their patrols, search and rescues, and other law enforcement assignments throughout the harsh environment and vast distances in the state of Alaska. The aircraft section has 43 aircraft, and over 50 pilots. Those pilots include commissioned troopers as well as civilians, who fly an average of approximately 6,500 hours each year.
In a DPS press release distributed today, the department said, “With its review of aircraft operations, the department is ensuring it is operating with the best practices in the industry and strives to set an example for law enforcement aviation safety.” DPS continued, saying the department “will examine the mission risk assessments and mission briefings before taking flight. Pilots will ensure a set of guidelines, that may include supervisory or management approval, are met before launching.”
The department also stated, that in addition to its review of aircraft operations, it has also looked at its standardized aviation training programs, and said part of the training restructuring will be developed further meet the challenges of the Alaska State Troopers’ unique mission in the extreme weather and unforgiving environment in Alaska.
Since the crash, the department made some changes to its safety management system to include installing real time satellite tracking devices in its aircraft and creating a new position in the aviation section for a safety officer. This new position will oversee the general safety of daily DPS aviation operations statewide.
Additionally, a new commissioned lieutenant was assigned to fill the position of commander overseeing the aircraft section. Both the lieutenant and the aircraft section supervisor have extensive backgrounds in aviation in Alaska. Meanwhile, the department will continue developing safety standards within FAA guidelines and work with Medallion Foundation to enhance aviation safety.