Tour Helicopter Crash Near Lake Mead Under Investigation

A tour helicopter flying near Lake Mead crashed on Wednesday night killing its pilot and four passengers.

The accident happened just before 5 p.m. about 30 miles from Las Vegas in a canyon west of the Colorado River reservoir. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are Las Vegas to investigate the crash. So far, no cause has been determined.

The helicopter was owned and operated by Sundance Helicopters, a Las Vegas-based company that offers numerous tours in the Grand Canyon area. Mark Rosekind, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigative team said it may be nine-10 months before we know exactly what happened during the crash.

Rosekind said the canyon where the crash occurred was difficult terrain. The canyon was about 150-200 feet wide at the top, he ways, and about 150 feet deep. The helicopter crashed 20 feet from the base on the north side of the canyon, he said.

“Most of the aircraft was consumed by fire and largely fragmented,” he said. “We’re not talking about a big open space…it’s very difficult just to get to the site.”

Larry Joslyn of Airwork LLC, which teaches helicopter pilots how to fly, says the cause of the crash may have been been several safety factors. These helicopter tours, in themselves, aren’t dangerous, he said.

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“It always boils down to the individual flying the aircraft,” he said. “It’s no different than if a bus gets into an accident, you know, it depends on the driver.”

“I think that these pilots fly in and out of these areas many, many times and they might get a little bit bored,” he said. “They might get a little bit aggressive. That’s human nature.”

In Sept. 2003 a Sundance Helicopter crashed in Arizona, killing its six passengers and pilot. Unsafe flying procedures and misjudgment were cited as the likely cause of the crash.

Mark Rosekind, National Transportation Safety Board
Larry Joslyn, Airwork LLC

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