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Published February 17, 2012, 10:23 AM

Weather may slow removal of crashed Wyoming copter

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The pilot of a helicopter that crashed in the Wyoming backcountry told investigators that the chopper began to spin and fall into a thick of trees where it landed in deep snow, killing a volunteer search and rescue team member.

By: BOB MOEN, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The pilot of a helicopter that crashed in the Wyoming backcountry told investigators that the chopper began to spin and fall into a thick of trees where it landed in deep snow, killing a volunteer search and rescue team member.

The helicopter remained partially buried in the snow early Friday and mostly intact, and plans were to move it to a storage facility for examination in Greeley, Colo., but wintry weather may delay the job, said Michael Huhn, lead investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Huhn, who interviewed the pilot over the telephone, said the probe into Wednesday's crash in the Bridger-Teton National Forest northeast of Jackson is in its early stages, and an official determination of the cause will come after an investigation expected to take nine months to a year, he said.

"The question right now is what's the underlying cause or causes of that loss of control" Huhn said Friday.

Longtime search and rescue volunteer Ray Shriver, of Jackson, was killed in the crash. The rescue team was responding to help a man involved in a separate snowmobile accident. Steven Anderson, of Morris, Minn., died of injuries in the accident.

Teton County Coroner Kiley Campbell said Anderson was vacationing with members of his family at the time. No one actually saw what happened to Anderson, but indications were that his snowmobile hit a tree and he was pinned underneath the machine, Campbell said.

Pilot Ken Johnson, 62, of Victor, Idaho, and another rescuer, Mike Moyer, 44, of Wilson, were hurt. Moyer was treated and released from St. John's Medical Center in Jackson Wednesday night, while Johnson was released from the hospital Thursday.

Huhn said that when the helicopter responded to the call for help the search and rescue team initially couldn't find the site of the wrecked snowmobile in the heavily wooded area. The helicopter landed and the team talked to one of the snowmobilers who called for help.

It was agreed that the team in the helicopter would follow from above as the snowmobiler led them to the wreck, Huhn said in a telephone interview from his office in California.

The helicopter was 100 to 200 feet in the air when it began to spin and crash, he said.

"It's almost inverted at 135 degrees over on its right side," he said Friday.

The investigation will look at a number of factors, including the machine's maintenance history, Huhn said.

"We're planning to look at all that, we're still in the fact gathering phase," he said.

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