Helicopter crash kills pilot

A pilot is dead after his helicopter went down in the Southern Lakes region yesterday afternoon. Carcross RCMP received a call from one of the helicopter's passengers at about 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday.

A pilot is dead after his helicopter went down in the Southern Lakes region yesterday afternoon.

Carcross RCMP received a call from one of the helicopter’s passengers at about 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday, a police release said on Wednesday.

While the name of the pilot is not yet being released, the flight belonged to Horizon Helicopters, a smaller, local company built by young entrepreneur Cole Hodinski.

“I’m devastated and the company’s devastated,” Hodinski said on Wednesday morning. “We can’t speculate the cause or anything at this time. Investigations are underway, TSB (the federal Transportation Safety Board) is on the way, so we can’t speculate because we don’t really know.”

The chopper, which went down on the north side of Nares Lake near Nares Mountain, was carrying one Yukon Environment worker and one contract worker on board for the department’s Southern Lakes grizzly bear DNA study.

Both workers are alive, but one is seriously injured and was flown to Whitehorse General Hospital. The other is being interviewed by investigators, the RCMP said.

The flight started out as a routine sample-gathering trip for Environment Yukon, said department spokesperson Nancy Campbell on Wednesday morning.

“There’s about 170 stations throughout the Southern Lakes area. We had a crew out on the ground, at the same time, at some other stations. Basically, the grizzly bears walk by and their fur touches some barbed wire and it collects there. We’re just going down to the stations to collect that fur and we do the DNA testing in the office later. This project has been going on for several weeks.”

In May of last year, Hodinski was named young entrepreneur of the year by Yukon’s Business Development Bank. His five-and-a-half-year-old company began with just Hodinski, one helicopter and a rented plot of land. It now has a fleet of about five helicopters and nearly 10 staff members.

After accepting the award last year, Hodiniski told the News that while the territory’s recent mining boom has helped his company grow, much of its success is due to his pilots.

“A lot of the recognition should be given to my employees,” he said in May 2011. “I got a really good group of people that I work with.”

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