Officials said the helicopter probably won’t be lifted from the lake until Monday or Tuesday.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A team of rescue and recovery divers was deployed Saturday after a helicopter carrying a pilot and three state workers crashed into a large lake on Alaska’s North Slope, officials said.
No survivors have been located.
“The official information is that they are missing, presumed dead,” said Clint Johnson, Alaska regional director for the National Transportation Safety Board.
He said an NTSB investigator was also on his way to the crash scene on Saturday as plans were being made to salvage debris from the water. Johnson said the challenges to the lake crash site and the availability of another helicopter in the area meant the plane would not be lifted from the middle of the shallow, 1-mile-wide lake until Monday or Tuesday.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources said in a statement Friday that the helicopter that was shot down was leased by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. It was carrying three personnel from the Geological Survey and Geophysics Division who were conducting field work.
“DNR is praying for our staff and pilots, their families and the DNR team,” the statement said. “We are continuing to await updates from the search and rescue effort.”
State agency spokeswoman Lorraine Henry said Natural Resources Commissioner John Boyle flew to the crash site Friday night with a search and rescue officer on the North Slope before proceeding with the recovery operation.
Bell 206 Helicopter was reportedly overdue on Thursday night. DJ Fauske, the county’s director of government and foreign affairs, said in a statement to the Associated Press Friday, a North Slope Borough search and rescue team in a helicopter found debris that matched the description of the missing helicopter.
Fauske did not immediately respond to a list of questions emailed to him on Saturday.
The wreckage of the helicopter was found in a lake near Wainwright, about 50 miles south of Utqiagvik, the northernmost city in the United States, formerly known as Barrow.
Johnson said that because the place where the helicopter stopped is in the middle of the lake, they will have to use another helicopter to pull it out.
“This is going to be a helicopter recovery, no if, no, no but no, in the middle of nowhere,” he said. That location, hundreds of miles north of Anchorage, also means helicopters are hard to reach.
“Helicopters here are very expensive,” he said.
Also complicating matters is that from the pictures he’s seen of the sunken helicopter, it’s broken into pieces, Johnson said.
Army spokesman Austin McDaniel said in an email to the Associated Press, North Slope Borough has asked the Alaska State Army to activate the Alaska Diving Search, Rescue and Recovery Team.
The team was en route to Utqiagvik on Saturday, located on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, about 720 miles northwest of Anchorage. McDaniel said the county was the primary agency coordinating efforts at the crash site.
Mr Johnson said the helicopter flight originated in Utqiagvik and was expected to return there, adding that other details of the flight were not available at the moment.
The helicopter is operated by Maritime Helicopters Inc., according to a statement on the company’s website. It confirmed the crash was fatal and said the names of the pilot and passengers would be released pending notification to relatives.
Associated Press writer Becky Bohrer of Juneau contributed.