MH-53J Pave Low crashes

IL Serge Pod #10.01.2002 20:38

Serge Pod


Thursday January 10 10:23 AM ET
Chopper Crashes During Colo. Rescue

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - A sightseeing plane crashed in a remote mountain creek valley, and rescuers reached the two passengers Thursday after a search helicopter crash-landed. No one was killed.

After the plane crash Wednesday, the pilot hiked six hours to find a place where his cell phone would work so he could call for help.

The plane's passengers - one wearing shorts - were found early Thursday with broken bones. None of the eight aboard the helicopter from Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque was injured.

The four-seat, single-engine Cessna 172 took off from Farmington, N.M., and crashed about 60 miles to the north in a grove of trees, said Mike Spray of the Civil Air Patrol.

The pilot was picked up by helicopter about six hours later and briefly helped with the search.

A dozen rescuers were ferried by ski lift to the top of Durango Mountain Ski resort and then boarded Sno-Cats and snowmobiles to head for the crash site 25 miles north of Durango.

Snow flurries and temperatures in the 20s were reported in the region overnight. The passengers had jackets but no survival gear, said Lt. Dan Bender of the La Plata County sheriff's office.

The rescuers reached the site before sunrise Thursday, said Butch Knowlton, the director of emergency preparedness for La Plata County.

The two passengers, both in their 40s, had broken ribs, a broken ankle and some facial injuries. One was from Florida and the other from San Juan County, N.M. Their names, and that of the 31-year-old pilot of Farmington, were not released.

The MH-53J Pave Low helicopter crash-landed less than a mile from the plane-crash site after its main rotor struck a tree as it either was landing or departing, said Steve Milligan, an Air Force spokesman.

The helicopter, carrying six crew members and two medical personnel, made a hard landing and its rotor broke.

Trees in the heavily wooded area are about 60 feet tall.

The eight rescuers were walking around, and a second team of four was sent to the site. All 12 were to be evacuated from the mountains by helicopter or snowmobile, Bender said.
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