Crater Lake ‘copter won’t be retrieved: Effort too risky, park officials say
January 26, 2000
By PAUL FATTIG
CRATER LAKE — The National Park Service will not require the company that owns the helicopter that crashed into Crater Lake in fall 1995 to remove the wreckage.
Crater Lake National Park officials Tuesday cited risks in the recovery operation coupled with the fact the wreckage poses no environmental problem at the bottom of the pristine lake.
“It is likely that any salvage operation to recover the wreckage would be complex and involve extensive use of manned and unmanned submersibles and helicopter support,” said Superintendent Chuck Lundy. “I am deeply concerned about the potential risks involved in such a recovery operation.”
The helicopter, owned by American Eurocopter of Grand Prairie, Texas, is believed to have disintegrated on impact in the Sept. 23, 1995, crash. It sank in approximately 1,500 feet of water.
Killed were pilot George W. Causey, 52, of Enumclaw, Wash., and Edward Tulleners Jr., 45, of West Linn. Their remains were never recovered.
Causey, a regional marketing manager for the firm, was headed to a trade show in Las Vegas. The helicopter was an Aerospatiale AS 350BA, also known as an A-STAR.
Park officials estimated it would cost up to $1 million to remove the wreckage.
The firm has paid the agency $122,500 as part of a settlement agreement. Federal laws require owners of crashed aircraft to remove wreckage from crash sites in national parks.
Part of the money received in the settlement will be used to employ sonar to locate precisely where the helicopter is at the bottom of the nation’s deepest lake. Surveys of the lake’s bottom were last made in 1959.
Although the agency decided not to make the firm remove the wreckage, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done sometime in the future, said Mac Brock, chief of natural resources at the park.
“If circumstances present themselves, say we’re doing research work and we believe with a little additional effort that we can remove the wreckage safely, we may consider doing that,” he said.
Before making the decision, the park service consulted several experts, Brock said.
“The wreckage is beyond the reach of divers,” he said. “The only way to reach it is remote operated vehicles or in manned submersibles which carry with it a certain amount of risk.”
The aircraft had about 70 gallons of jet fuel and several gallons of lubricants, he said.
“Based on the reports of witnesses, most of those hydrocarbons were released on impact,” he said.
The lake, internationally renowned for its clear water, has had record clarity in recent years, he observed.
“Although we regret the presence of metal debris on the bottom of the lake, its removal would not result in appreciable benefit to the lake environment sufficient to warrant the risks and the costs of salvage,” Brock said.