Norris Glacier is located south of Juneau, near the Taku Inlet.

Norris Glacier is located south of Juneau, near the Taku Inlet.

Update: Pilot of crashed helicopter medevaced in critical condition

A helicopter pilot who was injured in a crash on Norris Glacier on Thursday afternoon was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to a Bartlett Regional Hospital spokesman.

Bartlett’s Jim Strader told the Empire the male pilot arrived at Bartlett around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, and then was transported to Harborview at 7:20 p.m. The pilot, who has not been named but was flying for Era Helicopters, is listed as being in critical condition, Strader said.

An Era Helicopters helicopter crashed on the Norris Glacier, at the north end of Taku Inlet near Juneau.

“The helicopter went down within sight of a dog camp up there, and two dog sledders were able to come down and get to the guy on scene very quickly,” said U.S. Coast Guard District 17 Chief Petty Officer Joshua Ryan.

Ryan said the pilot was the only person on board the helicopter. Its emergency beacon went off at 2:12 p.m.

“He’s responsive, may have some broken ribs, complaining of chest pain. Sounds banged up, but can move around,” Ryan said.

Temsco Helicopters launched a helicopter with Juneau Police Department and Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel on board and landed on the glacier around 3:30 p.m., Ryan said. Coast Guard also had a helicopter en route from Sitka in case Temsco was unable to get there.

“The visibility is poor to none,” Ryan said.

An employee with Era Helicopters did not immediately comment about the crash and said no one else with the Era Group was available to speak with the Empire. Era is part of the Era Group, headquartered in Houston, Texas. According to its website, it’s the longest serving helicopter provider in the industry. The company’s primary business is transporting personnel to oil and gas fields in Alaska and Gulf of Mexico. For flightseeing, it offers tours in Denali National Park and Juneau.

In Juneau, Era is located on North Douglas Highway and provides transportation to sled dog tours on the Norris Glacier. It also offers flightseeing tours of the Juneau Ice Field and nearby attractions.

Alaska Heli-Mush, owned by father and son Linwood and Dalton Fiedler, runs the dog camp on the Norris Glacier. When reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Linwood Fiedler declined to comment.

The Coast Guard isn’t releasing the name of the helicopter pilot, but said he appeared to be in his late 30s.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, said investigator Michael Hodges. 

“We’re still kind of in that preliminary stage waiting for information to come in. Once it does, we’ll be making our decision if we’ll be doing any sort of on-site travel and examination,” Hodges said on the phone.

Weather conditions near the glacier were unfavorable but not “abnormal” today, according to National Weather Service Forecaster Kimberly Vaughan.

Around 3:30 p.m., the area was experiencing rain and easterly wind blowing between 10 and 20 knots. In some parts of Gastineau Channel, though, the wind was gusting up to 25 knots. Conditions were not out of the norm for the region, Vaughan said.

“That area can get very strong winds with the easterlies, so 10 to 20 knots isn’t anything too significant,” Vaughan said by phone.

The Beaufort Wind Force Scale, which measures wind speed as it relates to land and sea conditions, rates the wind the glacier is currently experiencing between a “moderate” and a “fresh breeze.” Winds must be gusting more than 28 knots before the scale deems them “high winds.”

This is a breaking news story. This article will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.

• Contact reporter Lisa Phu at 523-2246 or lisa.phu@juneauempire.com. Reporters Paula Ann Solis and Sam DeGrave contributed to this report.

Helicopters are seen outside Era Helicopters in North Douglas on Thursday afternoon.

Helicopters are seen outside Era Helicopters in North Douglas on Thursday afternoon.

In this July 2012 photo, a sled dog team is shown on the Norris Glacier, where an Era Helicopters LLC helicopter crashed on Thursday, injuring the pilot. No one else was on board, according to authorities.

In this July 2012 photo, a sled dog team is shown on the Norris Glacier, where an Era Helicopters LLC helicopter crashed on Thursday, injuring the pilot. No one else was on board, according to authorities.

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