Bodies of 4 dead in Alaska helicopter crash recovered

The remains were found around 6 a.m. in the small coastal town of Wainwright.

The bodies of the four people in the helicopter that recently crashed outside Utqiagvik, Alaska, were recovered Sunday. They are the pilot of the aircraft and the three scientists from the Geological and Geophysical Surveys division of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The Alaska Department of Public Safety reported that after several hours of searching, the deceased were found and identified as Ronald Daanen, 51, and Justin Germann, 27, both residents of Fairbanks, Tori Moore, 26, a resident of South Bend, Indiana, and Bernard "Tony" Higdon, a 48-year-old pilot who lived at the North Pole.

The bodies were found around 6 a.m. near the small coastal town of Wainwright, about 50 miles south on the outskirts of Utqiagvik, thanks to the efforts of a dive team, the Search and Rescue Team, and the North Slope District Police Department. After identifying the victims, the bodies were flown to Utqiagvik to the State Medical Examiner's Office to carry out autopsies.

The DNR mentioned on its social networks that the department will maintain contact with the families offering condolences to the loved ones and that they are initiating the mourning process for their co-workers.

"The Department is beginning the process of grieving for our colleagues, supporting our team through this challenging time, and working with partner agencies to learn everything we can about this incident," the DNR said.

Details of the accident

The 1996 Bell 206 helicopter operated by the tour agency Maritime Helicopters crashed last Thursday while transporting three DNR workers conducting investigations in the area.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and efforts continue to recover all of the wreckage of the aircraft that is in the lake. Johnson said there will be a team with representatives from Bell Helicopter, the airframe manufacturer, Roll Royce, the engine manufacturer, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to determine what caused the accident.

"The helicopter was found partially submerged and fragmented at the accident site," said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB's Alaska region.