On July 20, 2023, a Bell 206 helicopter, operated by Maritime Helicopters, Inc. crashed into a lake in northern Alaska. The three passengers and the pilot did not survive the accident. Our hearts go out to their families and friends.
Alaska Department of Natural Resources had chartered the helicopter for three of its employees who were conducting fieldwork for the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys. They had apparently been conducting field research from the air when the helicopter struck the large, shallow lake. Maritime Helicopters apparently lost contact via an electronic tracing system on the evening of the accident, which may have resulted in an overdue call.
The helicopter wreckage was found near Wainwright, Alaska, approximately 50 miles south of Utqiaġvik on the North Slope. Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow, is the northernmost city in the U.S.
The helicopter was a 1996 Bell 206-L4. It was owned by Maritime Helicopters. The engine is an Allison 250-C30P engine.
The NTSB along with invited parties, are investigating the accident. Those parties include Bell Helicopter, the aircraft manufacturer, and Rolls Royce, who bought the engine manufacturer Allison Engines, as a subsidiary in 1995. Though the crash occurred in a shallow albeit remote lake, it is hopeful that most if not all of the wreckage can be retrieved for inspection.
While there may have been fog in the area, it is too early to determine if that was a contributing cause of the accident. Currently not enough facts are known, nor have more facts been released, to shed light on this issue.
The NTSB investigation will likely take at least 18 months, after which the agency will issue its final report that will contain a statement of probable cause. An accident docket, which contains supporting documents, will also be available then.
Depending on the facts, the applicable law will likely be Alaska state law or federal general maritime law, and these may be combined for damage determination, with flight operational standards possibly from the Federal Aviation Regulations.
Aviation Law Group handles many aviation accident cases in Alaska, and attorney Hedrick is licensed in Alaska State and Federal Court. ALG attorneys have handled a number of previous Bell 206 accident cases, including crashes in Alaska and British Columbia.