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Deep Creek Canyon Fire Helicopter Crash Was Preventable, Extensive Report to Come Next Week

Aerial photograph of the Deep Creek Canyon fire.
Aerial photograph of the Deep Creek Canyon fire.

Last week’s helicopter crash at the Deep Creek Canyon Fire southeast of Helena was preventable, according to a new report from the Montana department in charge of the craft.

The report found that “more specific reconnaissance procedures” could’ve allowed the pilot to better gauge wind speed before attempting to land amid gusty conditions, causing the first helicopter accident in the history of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

The transportation and water drop helicopter rolled upside down as it crashed and caught fire between Townsend and the Deep Creek Canyon Fire, the report says. Five crew members escaped from the wreckage, some with minor injuries.

DNRC will retrain the pilot on wind evaluation, aerodynamics and helicopter limitations, according to the report.

The department instituted a 48-hour flight shut down after the accident that has since been lifted.

DNRC is expected to release a more extensive report on the Deep Creek Canyon Fire crash next week.

A spokesperson didn’t respond to multiple requests for a follow-up interview about the initial report.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America statehouse reporter.

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