5 killed in Alaska helicopter crash, including richest Czech man

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A contract helicopter carrying guides and guests of a lodge on a heli-skiing excursion in Alaska’s hinterland crashed, killing the pilot and four other people, including the richest man in the Czech Republic.

The only other person on board was in serious condition but was stable in an Anchorage hospital on Sunday, Alaska State Troopers said.

The five killed in the accident on Saturday have been identified as Petr waiter, 56, and Benjamin Larochaix, 50, both from the Czech Republic; Gregory Harms, 52, of Colorado; and two Alaskans, Sean McMannany, 38, from Girdwood and the pilot Zachary Russel, 33, from Anchorage, soldiers said on Sunday.

The five passengers included three guests and two guides from Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, company spokeswoman Mary Ann Pruitt said.

Kellner was a businessman with a net worth of over $ 17 billion Forbes 2020 list of the richest people in the world.

Kellner held a 98.93% stake in the PPF Group, an international investment company. The group operates in 25 countries in Europe, Asia and North America with assets of $ 52 billion. The PPF Group confirmed Kellner’s death.

Waiter and Larochaix “were loyal and frequent” guests at the lodge, Pruitt said in an email to the Associated Press.

Harms was a pioneering heliski guide in Alaska and worked at the lodge for many years, Pruitt said. “Greg was one of the most seasoned leaders in the business,” she said. He also started a heliski company that ran trips around the world.

McMannany had been a guide for over 10 years and had been with the lodge for the past five years, she said. He was also an avalanche instructor and experienced mountain guide on Denali, the highest peak in North America.

Russel was a pilot with Soloy Helicopters, a Wasilla-based company hired by the lodge to carry it out, Pruitt said.

“This news is devastating to our employees, the community in which we serve and the families of the deceased,” said a statement released by the lodge.

The Eurocopter AS50 crashed under unknown circumstances about 80 kilometers east of Anchorage at 6:35 p.m. Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday. Authorities said the crash site was near the Knik Glacier.

The lodge is about 60 miles northwest of Anchorage on Judd Lake. The company’s website is widely recognized as the longest-running heli-ski lodge in Alaska and promises deep, pristine descents on some of the best mountain areas in the world. “An unprecedented alpine adventure is just a helicopter ride away,” the website says. Packages start at $ 15,000 per person.

The lodge’s declaration states that this was the first time in the 17 years of its existence: “We had to face an event of this measure.”

Soloy Helicopters has a fleet of 19 helicopters operating primarily in Alaska charter flights.

Its website states that it supports government and industry and specializes in working for exploration programs for oil seismic drilling. Soloy Helicopters did not immediately respond to an email sent to The Associated Press on Sunday for comment.

Alaska State Troopers said in a statement on Sunday that they received a report on Saturday night of an overdue helicopter and the location of possible crash debris.

A rescue team from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was dispatched to the crash site in the Knik Glacier area shortly after 10 p.m., soldiers wrote. The team arrived to find five dead inmates and a single survivor who was rushed to hospital.

The Alaska Army National Guard and Alaska Mountain Rescue Group volunteers recovered the bodies from the crash site on Sunday and handed them over to the state coroner.

A temporary flight restriction over the glacier has been lifted, soldiers said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the case of the crash.

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