CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Federal authorities on Thursday were investigating the crash of a search-and-rescue helicopter in northwest Wyoming that killed a volunteer crew member trying to help an injured snowmobiler who also died.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were looking into Wednesday's crash of the Bell 407 helicopter in Wyoming's Teton County, said FAA spokesman Mike Fergus.
The helicopter went down in a remote, wooded, snow-covered mountain area in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in northwest Wyoming. The area is about 30 miles northeast of Jackson and east of Grand Teton National Park.
It was the first fatality in the history of Teton County Search and Rescue, a mostly volunteer organization that began search and rescue missions in 1993, according to its president, Tim Ciocarlan.
"The worst thing that ever happened in 19 years is we broke a wrist. That was it," Ciocarlan said in a telephone interview.
The rescuer killed was identified as Ray Shriver, 63, of Jackson. The snowmobiler, Steven Anderson, 53, of Morris, Minn., died of injuries he suffered when his machine struck a tree.
Ciocarlan said Shriver had lived in Jackson nearly 30 years and was one of the original founders of Teton County Search and Rescue, which consists of 35 volunteers and one paid director.
"He was my hero," he said, choking back tears.
The pilot and another rescuer were injured. They were taken to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson.
Ciocarlan said the pilot, Ken Johnson, 62, of Victor, Idaho, remained in the hospital Thursday but was expected to be released later in the day.
The other rescuer, Mike Moyer, 44, of Wilson, was treated and released Wednesday night, Ciocarlan said.
"They were fortunate and were able to escape without significant injury," he said.
The helicopter was built in 2008 and is registered to Hillsboro Aviation, of Hillsboro, Wash. A company executive didn't immediately return a telephone call.
Officials said the helicopter crashed as it hovered in the area where the snowmobilers were located. It was searching for a landing zone at the time. Initial reports that the helicopter had landed and had just taken off were not accurate, Teton County spokeswoman Charlotte Reynolds said.
Sheriff's officials speculate that a failed rear rotor might have caused the crash.
Ciocarlan said the search and research team takes great care in preparing for a mission, including a risk analysis that determines the best way of conducting a rescue and the dangers rescuers face.
"We can't do everything and the fact the ship had a mechanical failure, who can see that coming?" Ciocarlan said.
Shriver was a county employee with the engineer's office, Reynolds said.
"This is definitely a blow to the search and rescue organization, to the Teton County organization as a whole as well as our entire community," Reynolds said. "As someone said to me this morning everyone in our community knows someone on search and rescue, so it's pretty tragic."
Associated Press writer Dan Elliott in Denver contributed to this report.