Geologists and pilot doing sand and gravel surveys near Point Lay die in copter crash near Wainwright


A Bell helicopter chartered by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources crashed into a lake about 50 miles south-southwest of Utquagvik on Thursday, claiming the lives of all four individuals onboard.

The accident occurred near Wainwright, and the victims were three Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey employees and the pilot, who were engaged in fieldwork in the area.

The incident came to light when the three DNR employees conducting fieldwork failed to check in as expected on Thursday night, leading to the initiation of a search and rescue operation by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, in coordination with the North Slope Borough Department of Search and Rescue, and the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

During the search and rescue effort, helicopter debris matching the description of the overdue aircraft was discovered in a shallow lake. The wreckage was later confirmed to be that of the missing helicopter, a Bell 206, which had been operated by Maritime Helicopters Inc.

The division has been preparing to do sand and gravel research in the Point Lay area west of Wainwright, starting July 22 through Aug. 3, according to its communication to the Point Lay community. A Point Lay barbecue and science open house at the Point Lay Kali School was planned for July 24 with the scientific team doing the work in the area.

The division’s field team consisted of four geologists, and scientists from ASRC Energy and a geology consulting company. The ties with the University of Alaska Fairbanks scientific community are strong with the research team.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the crash.

According to a statement released on Maritime Helicopters Inc.’s website, the company confirmed the accident’s outcome and expressed deep sorrow over the loss. The names of the pilot and passengers have been withheld until their next of kin can be notified.

File photo from Division of Geological and Geophysical Survey, State of Alaska. This story will be updated.


  1. I thought Maritime had transponders on their helicopters, seems odd that they wouldn’t have known if their helicopter was overdue.

  2. DNR could save the taxpayers lots of dollars if they simply looked at the log books and drill mapping GEODE Exploration did in the late 80’s and 90’s when Len was developing the boundaries for the coal mine. His research was very thorough and extensive and He developed a very detailed map of all subsurface materials.

    However saving tax dollars is not in the American Rescue Plan or the Inflation Reduction Act which when translated means buying lots of votes with tax dollars.
    The money currently being pumped into rural Alaska is staggering but at least Lisa and Mary can pat themselves on the back.

    Sadly lots of families impacted with this tragic event.

  3. Rip to all and condolences to all their families
    Maritime is a top knotch operator
    Unfortunately may be very difficulty figuring out the cause

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