A helicopter crash Saturday afternoon killed one person and injured two others during an Eastern Washington project to capture deer for a Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife survey.
The three people on board were associated with Hells Canyon Helicopters of Clarkston, Wash., formerly known as Kiwi Air.
Fish and Wildlife contracted with the Clarkston company and had no state employees onboard the helicopter, said Madonna Luers, spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife.
The Washington State Patrol reported that Benjamin Poirier, 19, of Berthoud, Colo., died in the crash. He was misidentified in information released to news media shortly after the crash.
The pilot, Blake Malo, 33, of Clarkston, remained in critical condition Monday at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho.
A second passenger, Garrett Bradshaw, 30, of Eagle Point, Colo., also was injured and taken to the Lewiston hospital. His condition was upgraded to good on Monday.
“Our staff is shocked and saddened along with the rest of the community,” Luers said Monday. “It’s just a tragedy.”
Saturday was the first day of work to survey and capture deer in Columbia, Walla Walla and Garfield counties after the survey was postponed from December.
The helicopter crashed in rolling range land about five miles south of the Snake River and about 20 miles northwest of Pomeroy in an area known as Ping Gulch. Fish and Wildlife had received permission from the landowner to capture deer there.
A state Fish and Wildlife biologist alerted law enforcement officials Saturday when a smart phone app tracking the flight showed the helicopter had stopped moving, according to the agency.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
The helicopter crew had caught and collared five deer before the crash, Luers said.
A net was fired from the helicopter to capture deer when they were spotted.
Then the helicopter would land and the deer, tangled in the netting, would be fitted with a global positioning system collar, and blood and fecal samples would be collected.
GPS data would be used to track the movement of the deer over its life span to allow biologists to monitor migration patterns and survival of does. The percentage of bucks, does and fawns seen also was being recorded.
The survey was planned to capture up to 50 mule deer does. Some of the data collected from the study was planned to be used for management of deer and to provide information on hunting seasons.