Alaska News

Search called off for 3 missing in Southeast Alaska helicopter crash

The U.S. Coast Guard has called off a two-day search for three people missing from the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in Southeast Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

Josh Pepperd, 42, the president of Anchorage's Davis Constructors and Engineers, his 11-year-old son Andrew and Palmer helicopter piloting company owner David King, 53, are presumed dead in the crash.

The Coast Guard, the Alaska Air National Guard and Civil Air Patrol searched 788 square miles over more than 36 hours, according to Nate Littlejohn, a Coast Guard spokesman.

With no signs that the three had survived the crash, the search was suspended at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, according to the Coast Guard.

The new Airbus helicopter crashed sometime Friday in a tidal zone near Lituya Bay, a fjord with a narrow entrance situated 120 miles northwest of Juneau in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Some pieces of wreckage, including parts of the engine and seats, washed up on the shore.

Coast Guard personnel rescued Pepperd's older son Aiden, 14, from a beach about 3 miles from Lituya Bay on the Gulf of Alaska coast, according to a press release from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

He is being treated at an Anchorage hospital, according to the Coast Guard.


Pepperd is the president of Davis Constructors and Engineering, a major Alaska construction company headquartered in Anchorage. The company was responsible for a recent expansion of the Anchorage Museum, as well as other major projects around the state. He has also been a major donor to conservative Alaska political candidates and causes.

Pepperd and his sons were bringing the Airbus H125 helicopter to Alaska after picking it up at an Airbus facility in Grand Prairie, Texas. They were expected to arrive in Yakutat on Friday night but never made it.

The helicopter is "brand-new, top of the line," said Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska chief.

It's not clear whether Pepperd had purchased the helicopter for business or for personal use, or who was piloting it at the time of the crash.

NTSB investigators were at the scene Sunday trying to find and remove recording equipment from the wreckage of the helicopter before it is damaged by saltwater.

"This helicopter had the latest and greatest technology that's out there," Johnson said.

If recovered, Johnson said, the recording equipment "can give us a chance to see what happened in the last moment of this flight."

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.