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Helicopter spun before fatal crash

Feb 26, 2012 - Associated Press

JACKSON (AP) -- A rescue helicopter turned slightly to the left before it went into a rapid spin and crashed in northwest Wyoming, killing a search and rescue volunteer who was onboard, investigators said.

A National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report dated Thursday said the helicopter was 100 to 200 feet above the trees when it began spinning and crashed Feb. 15 northeast of Jackson.

The report said the pilot thought he had corrected the left yaw before the Bell 407 helicopter began spinning. Investigators have not determined the direction of the spin.

The report does not establish the cause of the crash. That often takes months.

Ray Shriver, of Jackson, died from injuries he suffered in the crash, authorities said.

Pilot Ken Johnson, 62, of Victor, Idaho, and another rescuer, Mike Moyer, 44, of Wilson, were injured. Johnson is chief pilot for Hillsboro Aviation of Hillsboro, Ore., which owns the helicopter, the NTSB said. Moyer is a battalion chief for Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.

Johnson has about 22,500 hours of flight time, including about 4,500 in Bell 407 helicopters, the NTSB said.

Moyer pulled Johnson and Shriver out of the wreckage.

The crash site was in heavy timber at about 9,350 feet above sea level.

Johnson was treated and released at a Jackson hospital on Feb. 15. Johnson was released from the hospital Feb. 16.

The helicopter was attempting to find an injured snowmobiler, Steven Anderson, of Morris, Minn. He died of a broken neck after crashing into a tree. Other snowmobilers were leading the search helicopter to Anderson, and the helicopter periodically stopped and hovered to allow the snowmobilers to catch up.

The helicopter crashed on either the second or third hover, the NTSB said.

A helicopter retrieved the wreckage Friday and delivered it to a flatbed truck, so it can be moved to a hangar where investigators can examine it. Bad weather halted two previous attempts.

The crashed helicopter was packed with snow, making it heavier to lift out of the heavy timber, but no problems with recovery were reported, said Mary Cernicek of the U.S. Forest Service.

Because of the snow, forest officials probably won't be able to tell until the spring whether any fuel leaked from the crashed helicopter, she said.

The emergency call first came in to to Fremont County emergency dispatch, and Fremont County personnel assisted in the search and rescue operation after primary authority was transferred to Teton County authorities. The crash occurred in Teton County.

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