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Thread: Helicopter Crash Kills 3 In Utah Moose-Trapping Operation

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    Helicopter Crash Kills Three In Moose-Trapping Operation

    BY JIM WOOLF , THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

    ### ###Three people died Thursday when a helicopter crashed in Parleys Canyon while trapping moose for the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources.

    ### ###The small red helicopter struck a power line running along the north side of Mountain Dell Reservoir near Interstate 80 at about 12:45 p.m. It then flipped upside down and slammed into the ice-capped reservoir east of Salt Lake City.

    ### ###Names of the dead will not be released until today, but it is known that one was a DWR employee who was filming the operation. The other two victims were believed to be employees of Helicopters By OZ Inc., a company based in the southern Utah town of Marysvale hired by the state.

    ### ###"This is very difficult for us," Larry Dalton, chief of conservation outreach for DWR, said of the accident. He knew all three of the victims.

    ### ###"This kind of work is exciting," Dalton said, "but the risks are very real."

    ### ###When rescue crews arrived, only the skids and undercarriage were protruding from a hole the falling helicopter punched in the foot-thick ice. A piece of the red tail section dangled from the nearby wire.

    ### ###It took rescuers about three hours to pull the wreckage from the reservoir and recover the bodies.

    ### ###The accident temporarily knocked out power in parts of western Summit County and prompted the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities to shut down its water-treatment plant at Mountain Dell to avoid contamination from leaking fuel.

    ### ###"None of it got into the drinking water supply," sai d LeRoy W. Hooton Jr., director of public utilities for the city. Experts were at the site late Thursday sampling water and deciding what kind of cleanup will be necessary.

    ### ###Dalton said Thursday's operation was supposed to remove between 15 to 20 moose from Parleys Canyon. Moose populations in Utah are at an all-time high and an aerial survey on Dec. 13 found 51 of the horse-sized animals in the foothills and canyons near Salt Lake City.

    ### ###The animals in Parleys Canyon were being relocated to reduce the risk to motorists traveling on I-80. Several serious accidents have occurred the past few weeks when vehicles struck moose.

    ### ###"With the Olympics coming, there is going to be a lot more traffic on this road [I-80]," said Dalton. "We wanted to thin out the moose a little."

    ### ###Four moose had been captured Thursday before the accident. If everything had gone normally, the Parleys Canyon moose were to be sent to Scofield Reservoir in Carbon County, the Strawberry Valley, Currant Creek, the Yellowstone Creek drainage on the south slope of the Uinta Mountains and Diamond Mountain near Vernal.

    ### ###DWR spokesman Steve Phillips was about a mile away when the accident occurred.

    ### ###"We were just sick to have to look at it, people we had just broken for lunch with," said Phillips. "One minute we are standing around joking having stew with the pilot. Then they run over, jump in a helicopter and don't come back."

    ### ###Phillips said the capture operation usually involves four people. There is the helicopter pilot who hovers over the animal, a gunner who fires a net from a hand-held device, and two "muggers" who hop from the helicopter and hobble the animal by tying its front legs and one back leg together.

    ### ###A blindfold is placed over the moose's eyes to calm it. It is then placed in a large bag for transport to waiting trailers. Occasionally, when animals are too close to the freeways or to residences, they may be shot with a tranquilizer gun. That was not the case Thursday.

    ### ###Dalton said four people had been on the helicopter Thursday, but shortly before the accident it landed and dropped one of them off. It is possible, he said, that they had netted a moose and set down to let one of the "muggers" secure the animal.

    ### ###Phillips said the DWR employee was in the helicopter shooting video of the operation for Salt Lake area television stations and the agency's own wildlife program, which airs on KUED-Channel 7.

    ### ###The weather was overcast with a light haze at the time of the accident.

    ### ###DWR does not have its own helicopter, so it regularly hires Helicopters By OZ to provide the service. The company, which also does business under the name of Helicopter Capture Services, has been doing this type of work for more than 20 years in the United States, Canada and New Zealand, according to its Web site.

    ### ###Records of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration mention two previous helicopter crashes involving the company.

    ### ###One was Dec. 6, 2000, near Montrose, Colo., during another animal-capture operation. The commercial pilot and two passengers received minor injuries. The other was on Oct. 10, 2000, when a chopper transporting seismographic equipment lost power and crashed near Baggs, Wyo. The pilot was seriously injured.

    ### ###A similar tragedy doomed another Utah wildlife-capturing firm when its helicopter went down on Mexico's Tiburon Island on Dec. 19, 1998, while rounding up bighorn sheep. That crash killed three employees of Helicopter Wildlife Management.
    ### ###_________
    ### ###
    ### Reporters Tom Wharton, Skip Knowles and Brian Maffly contributed to this story.

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    I just got word of this from a co-worker. ###I knew these folks, they helped us with our KY elk restoration.

    Our thoughts and prayers for the families.

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    Utah officials defend moose moving

    Relocation means fewer animals pose threat on freeway

    Tue, Jan 1, 2002 ###

    The Associated Press


    SALT LAKE CITY -- Dangling a moose from a helicopter may seem a drastic form of animal control, but state wildlife officials say it"s the fastest and easiest way to evict the potentially dangerous animals from populated areas.

    Unlike deer and other large animals that also walk along busy roads and into neighborhoods during snowy winters, moose can be picked up and moved because they are hardy and handle the relocation well.

    Last week one of the airlifts turned deadly. Three men were killed after their helicopter clipped a power line and crashed into a frozen reservoir. The state Division of Wildlife Resources is debating whether to continue to use helicopters to move moose.

    Division spokesman Mark Hadley said the relocation effort became a priority after seven were hit and killed by drivers on Interstate 80 in Parleys Canyon during the past month.

    "Heavy snowfall has been driving moose down close to I-80. It"s always a danger to hit any big game animal, but especially moose because of their size," Hadley said.

    During the 2002 Winter Olympics in February, electronic signs along the highway will alert drivers if animals are seen near the road.

    Alan Clark, wildlife section chief for Wildlife Resources, said although the state"s moose management plan allows for 600 more of the animals in the state, problems with the moose this winter may force a change in that estimate.

    The state"s plan calls for 4,100 moose to be spread among eight wildlife management areas. The state estimates 3,500 moose are in those areas.

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    DWR halts helicopter captures

    Fatal crash prompts review of procedures

    Fri, Jan 4, 2002

    By JIM WRIGHT, Ogden Standard Examiner

    SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has officially suspended all animal capture operations involving the use of helicopters until a review of its safety procedures is completed, said division wildlife section chief Alan Clark.

    Helicopter captures have been on hold since the Dec. 27 accident that took the lives of a wildlife resources employee and two members of Helicopter Capture Services.

    The agency contracted with the private helicopter company to capture moose near Interstate 80 in Parleys Canyon east of Salt Lake City. The moose posed threats to motorists after being pushed close to the freeway by heavy snowfall in higher elevations this winter.

    Clark said Doug Messerly, the division"s Southern Region law enforcement supervisor, will head up the review. Messerly will work with federal and state officials to determine whether safety procedures can be improved, Clark said.

    Clark said he does not believe any safety precautions were violated during the Dec. 27 accident. He said the pilot was highly experienced and an excellent flier.

    "We don"t know that there"s going to be a flaw found in our procedures or not," Clark said.

    Clark said the division will also set up a committee of wildlife managers who have taken part in numerous helicopter captures to review all of the agency"s helicopter capture procedures.

    The division has used helicopters to capture wildlife for decades. Clark said many hundreds of flights have been made over the years without incident.

    Wildlife resources had planned to capture bighorn sheep on Antelope Island State Park later this month and move them to the Newfoundland Mountains west of the Great Salt Lake. It also had planned several other operations in the northeastern part of the state.

    Division officers will continue to monitor wildlife populations with helicopters and airplanes, but will not attempt any aerial captures until the review is completed, Clark said.

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    The family and I were fortunate enough to ski the Canyons just outside of Park City last year. ###We saw LOTS of moose. ###One even walked right through the lower parking lot. ###Hitting one of those monsters would be real serious. ###It's a sad situation all around.

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    QALHNTR,

    I used to ski Park West and Park City a lot in the late 1980s. I don't remember seeing any moose but the deer were thick. The biggest migration of muleys I've ever seen was just south of Salt Lake. We had to wiat for about 1/2 hour on the highway while all the deer crossed. Unbelievable.

    ================================================== ================

    Utah Division of Wildlife Resources,

    1/4/02

    Memorial Fund Established For Family Of DWR Employee

    Salt Lake City -- A memorial fund has been established for the family of Jerry Openshaw, a Division of Wildlife Resources employee who lost his life in a helicopter accident on Dec. 27.

    Openshaw leaves behind a wife and three daughters.

    Those who would like to contribute to the fund can contribute directly to the Jerry D. Openshaw Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank in Utah, or they can send a check or money order to:

    Jerry D. Openshaw Memorial Fund
    c/o Wells Fargo Bank
    3602 Washington Blvd.
    Ogden, UT 84403

    For more information, call the Division of Wildlife Resources' Northern Region office at (801) 476-2740. The office is open Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    ================================================== ============

    All Animal Captures By Helicopter Suspended

    Salt Lake City -- The Division of Wildlife Resources has suspended all animal capture operations involving the use of helicopters until a thorough review of its helicopter capture procedures is completed.

    This comes after a Dec. 27 helicopter accident that took the lives of a DWR employee and two members of Helicopter Capture Services. The DWR contracted with the private company to capture moose near I-80 in Parleys Canyon east of Salt Lake City. The moose were posing threats to motorists after being pushed close to the freeway by heavy snowfall in higher elevations this winter.

    "The safety of those involved in these capture operations is our top priority, and we won't be doing them again until we've reviewed all of our capture procedures," says Alan Clark, Wildlife Section chief for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "Division staff are like an extended family, and we're all suffering from this tragic accident."

    The Division will begin its review in mid-January.

    Clark says that without the use of helicopters, the Division must rely on other means to remove moose that pose threats to motorists in Parleys Canyon.

    If possible, Clark says moose will be tranquilized by Division personnel and carried to trailers for transport to a different location. Division personnel will also try to move moose away from the road by hazing practices, such as firing firecracker shells at them. If these procedures don't address the threat, or aren't practical, moose may be shot by Division personnel.

    "As was the case last week, we continue to be concerned about the risk moose pose to motorists and will address the problem with the most appropriate approach," Clark says.

    "We're urging motorists to slow down and drive cautiously through this area, especially if they're driving at night," Clark continued. "Moose are large animals, but they're dark-colored and are very hard to see at night. Motorists need to slow down and drive cautiously through this area, or in any area of the state where big game animals are close to roads.

    "When people see a big game animal near a road, they should visualize that a one-year-old child is standing there and act accordingly," he says. "These animals are just like children in the sense that they don't understand the dangers vehicles pose, and will walk right in front of your car."

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