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Alaska Troopers identify 3 men who died in helicopter crash

Laurel Andrews
Mel Nading and Tage Toll headed out Saturday evening to rescue Carl Ober, who reportedly was injured after crashing on his snowmachine near Larsen Lake. Photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers

Read the latest: Storied rescue pilot among those killed in Alaska Trooper helicopter crash

Updated 4:30 p.m. April 1: Alaska State Troopers released the names of three men who died in a helicopter crash after rescuing an injured snowmachiner 10 miles east of Talkeetna over the weekend.

They include Alaska State Trooper pilot Mel Nading, Trooper Tage Toll of Talkeetna, and Carl Ober, the 56-year-old injured snowmachiner from Talkeetna.

Nading and Toll headed out Saturday evening to rescue Ober, who reportedly was injured after crashing on his snowmachine near Larsen Lake. At about 8 p.m. Saturday, "radio communication with Helo-1 indicated that they had located the injured snowmachiner," according to a Troopers' news release Monday. "It was requested that a ground ambulance be waiting at the Sunshine Tesoro in Talkeetna to meet up with Helo-1 to transport Mr. Ober to a hospital for treatment of his injuries. Helo-1 did not make the rendezvous."

The helicopter crashed near the south end of Larsen Lake, according to Troopers. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident.

Original story: An Alaska State Troopers helicopter crashed overnight during a search-and-rescue mission to pick up a stranded snowmachiner near Talkeetna. Troopers report the pilot, a trooper and a snowmachiner were on board and that there were "no survivors at the scene of the crash."   

Troopers received word of a stranded, “possibly injured” snowmachiner near Larson Lake, about 8 miles east of Talkeetna, around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, said trooper spokesperson Meghan Peters. Trooper helicopter Helo-1 responded, first picking up a trooper, and then heading out to the search area. The helicopter located the snowmachiner around 10 p.m., landed, and retrieved him. 

Helo-1 was headed back from the rescue, en route to Sunshine Tesoro in Talkeetna to meet medics, but it never arrived.  

Kalei Rupp, Alaska National Guard spokesperson, said the FAA reported the overdue helicopter around 1 a.m. Sunday morning. However, due to poor weather conditions and the National Guard rescue crew being on mandatory rest, the search did not begin until around 5 a.m. Sunday. The wreckage was located south of Larson Lake by an Alaska Air National Guard Rescue Coordination Center aircraft around 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

"We have not found any survivors," said Peters, who called the crash a "tremendous loss" for the Alaska State Troopers. The names of those aboard the helicopter have not yet been released.

So far, the cause of the crash is unknown. Helo-1 is routinely used for search and rescue missions year-round, day and night in “all sorts of circumstances,” Peters said.

“There’s nothing uncommon about this scenario except that Helo-1 didn’t return home,” Peters said.

Based out of Anchorage, Helo-1 is a five-seat, turbine-powered Eurocopter AS350 with a range of about 400 miles, has been the troopers' go-to asset for search and rescue operations all over Alaska for about a decade. The troopers have two other helicopters, but they are much smaller Robinson R44s. “We don’t have any other helicopter of that capability,” Peters said. Troopers have ordered an additional AStar, to be based out of Fairbanks, but the loss of this helicopter may impact where that helicopter ends up.

Troopers have regularly used Helo One for such search-and-rescue operations such as picking up lost hikers, rescuing stranded snowmachiners, retrieving injured skiers and the like. Troopers go to the aid of many snowmachiners in trouble in the state every winter. Helicopter and rescue operations have been regularly featured on the television show "Alaska State Troopers.''

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com

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