ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - An Alaska State Troopers helicopter crashed during a rescue mission, killing all three people onboard, including the stranded snowmobiler who had summoned the troopers’ help, officials said on Monday.
Emergency workers reached the wreckage early on Sunday and recovered the bodies of veteran rescue pilot Mel Nading, 55, of Anchorage; Trooper Tage Toll, 40, of Talkeetna; and snowmobiler Carl Ober, 56, also of Talkeetna, state officials said at an Anchorage news conference.
The helicopter crashed near Talkeetna, a small town known as the base for most expeditions on Mount McKinley.
Ober, injured after crashing his snowmobile, had called for help, likely on a cellphone, officials said. Ober said he did not have adequate gear to spend the night outdoors, officials said.
The helicopter, used regularly in Alaska for rescues in the wilderness, apparently crashed on Saturday night, officials said. It failed to arrive at a rendezvous site to meet medics late on Saturday, they said.
“This is a great tragedy and loss for us, the search and rescue community and the state of Alaska,” Joe Masters, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, said at the news conference.
The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
It was the first fatal aircraft crash for the state troopers since 2001, and the sixth since 1974. Alaska state troopers regularly use aircraft to travel around the vast state; many communities lack road access, and the troopers are regularly involved in search-and-rescue missions.
Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Mohammad Zargham