ALBERTA

Bryce Campbell Dead; Helicopter Crash Near Fort McMurray Kills Two

05/30/2013 02:09 EDT | Updated 07/30/2013 05:12 EDT
RCMP Wood Buffalo

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. - Investigators looking into a fatal helicopter crash in northern Alberta say conditions at the time appear to have been good.

"Initial reports are that the weather was good," Jon Lee of the Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

Pilot Bryce Campbell of Golden, B.C., and provincial biologist Kristina Norstrom of Athabasca, Alta., were killed in the crash.

A second provincial biologist, Simon Slater, was injured and remained in stable condition in hospital.

Lee said the chopper went down over level, forested terrain that appears dry from photos of the site.

"It is flat and boreal forest," he said. "It is not in water. The ground looks pretty firm."

Two investigators were at the scene and a third was in Fort McMurray at the offices of helicopter owner Wood Buffalo Helicopters. That investigator was expected to interview Slater.

The scientists were collecting radio collars that had fallen off caribou in the Birch Mountain area northwest of Fort McMurray.

"It's surveying work, to count numbers," said Environment spokeswoman Jessica Potter.

Such flights are conducted periodically as part of the province's ongoing work on diminishing caribou herds in northern Alberta.

"Our staff are really missing a quite dedicated and very competent individual," Potter said. "She was very well-liked and respected by her colleagues."

Michael Morin, president of Aurora Helicopters Ltd., confirmed one of the company's aircraft went down around 11 a.m. Wednesday about 130 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

"We are deeply saddened by this event and feel the loss greatly," he said.

Premier Alison Redford and Environment Minister Diana McQueen offered condolences.

"The loss of a family member, co-worker or friend is truly one of life's biggest challenges, and I hope that those close to the individuals find comfort in friends and loved ones during this difficult time,'' said Redford in a statement.

Said McQueen: "On behalf of the Government of Alberta, I offer my deepest sympathies to those affected by this tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of both individuals, including their work families who now grieve for their colleagues.

Aurora Helicopters, the parent company of Wood Buffalo Helicopters, says it has operated in the area for more than 25 years.

The company's website says it offers services that include helicopter tours, support for the energy industry, pipeline and environmental monitoring and forest-fire fighting.

It operates a fleet of helicopters including Bell 206 Jet Rangers, as well as EC120B Calibri and AS350-B2 AStar Eurocopters.

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