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Helicopter crash near Knik Glacier kills 5, leaving sole survivor in serious condition

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Five are dead and one survivor is in serious condition after a helicopter crashed Saturday near Knik Glacier, according to Alaska State Troopers.

A spokeswoman with Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, a backcountry ski resort northwest of Anchorage, said Sunday that the helicopter was on a heli-ski outing and carrying two ski guides, three lodge guests and a pilot.

A team from Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was dispatched to the crash site just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, troopers wrote, after state troopers received a report of an overdue helicopter and the location of possible crash debris.

The deceased were identified Sunday evening as 52-year-old Colorado resident Gregory Harms, 56-year-old Czech Republic resident Petr Kellner, 50-year-old Czech Republic resident Benjamin Larochaix, 38-year-old Girdwood resident Sean McManamy, and the pilot, 33-year-old Anchorage resident Zachary Russell.

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the cause of the crash.

The rescue team arrived to find five occupants of helicopter dead and one survivor, who was transported for medical care. “The survivor remains in serious but stable condition, and is receiving medical care at an Anchorage area hospital,” according to state troopers.

By Sunday evening, the five bodies from the crash site had been recovered, and next of kin for the deceased had been notified.

The crash site is located 21 miles southeast of Palmer, said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB office.

“It’s in an area of very steep terrain, snow-covered terrain, right around 5,000 to 6,000 feet... on the north side of Knik river,” he said.

“The mode we’re in now is to recover the wreckage,” he said. He said the goal was to get the recovery done quickly, before the arrival of a forecasted snow storm.

The Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Army National Guard and Alaska Mountain Rescue Group attempted recovery efforts at the crash site Sunday, troopers wrote.

Tordrillo Mountain Lodge had chartered the helicopter from Soloy Helicopters, a Wasilla-based charter company, according to a spokeswoman for the lodge. The lodge bills itself as a luxury multi-sport resort, and offers guided heli-skiing packages through the winter that start at $15,000 per person.

“This news is devastating to our staff, the community in which we operate and the families of the deceased. In 17 years of operations this is the first time we’ve had to face an event of this measure,” read a statement from the lodge.

A flight restriction that was put in place in the area of Knik Glacier for the recovery mission during the day was lifted Sunday evening.

Bill Roth contributed reporting.

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