01/17/2012 06:45 EST | Updated 03/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Fraser Valley Helicopter Crash Leaves One Dead

VANCOUVER - An emergency training simulation morphed into a real-life disaster operation on Tuesday when an RCMP helicopter crashed into snow-covered hills in a rural area east of Vancouver.

Witnesses on the ground sprung into action, but it was to little avail.

"Emergency response team members who were present as part of the training exercise provided immediate and extensive efforts to save the pilot's life," RCMP Chief Superintendent Wayne Rideout told reporters just hours later.

"The pilot was part of our RCMP family and he will be missed."

The A-star B3 chopper was returning to base after concluding a series of emergency response drills. It went down just before 2 p.m. around Cultus Lake, near Chilliwack, in an area with scattered trees bordering Department of National Defence land.

The pilot was the only person aboard.

He was a civilian member of the RCMP, who had worked "several years" with the RCMP and had "extensive" piloting experience, Rideout said.

"This pilot is a member of the RCMP that got up this morning and went to work to do his job," Rideout told reporters at a brief news conference at RCMP headquarters in Vancouver. "He's died on duty."

Mounties, the B.C. Coroner and the Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

The RCMP said the man’s name would not be released until more members of his family are notified.

But Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued a statement late extending condolences and sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Dave Brolin.

"This is a very sad day for all Canadians," said Toews.

"The death of a member of our national police force is a sobering reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the men and women who serve each day to keep our communities safe."

Rideout said it's too early in the probe to know what factors contributed to the crash.

"Our air service in British Columbia is extremely important to our ability to deliver policing services to this province," he said, noting the force operates six helicopters.

"They receive the highest degree of maintenance and the equipment is top-notch, so I can tell you it is my believe it is extremely rare to have something like this take place."

Two TSB investigators will head out to the site, about 85 kilometres southeast of Vancouver, on Wednesday after getting further direction from police about how to access the area, said spokesman Bill Yearwood.