Helicopter retrieved from Island Lake
The helicopter that crashed into Island Lake on Friday morning shortly after midnight was retrieved from about 15 feet of water Saturday. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration will comb through the wreckage, as investigators work to determine ...
The helicopter that crashed into Island Lake on Friday morning shortly after midnight was retrieved from about 15 feet of water Saturday. Now, the Federal Aviation Administration will comb through the wreckage, as investigators work to determine the accident's cause.
Sandy Hoff, co-owner of Lake Superior Helicopters, the Duluth-based business that operated the leased helicopter, said it appeared damaged well beyond repair.
Scott Monson, the chief pilot and co-owner of Lake Superior Helicopters, was treated at St. Luke's hospital in Duluth and released, but could not be reached for comment Sunday.
"He has some bumps and bruises, but it's amazing he wasn't hurt worse. I think his skill and experience really helped him survive," Hoff said. "He's a very lucky young man."
The accident occurred when the Robinson R44 Raven that Monson was flying experienced mechanical difficulties moments after taking off from a gathering at the lakeside home of Michael Van Staagen. Hoff said people have theories about what may have gone wrong, but he said he would not speculate, waiting instead for the FAA to finish its investigation.
Monson was alone in the helicopter when it went down about 200 feet from shore. He was quickly rescued by a pontoon boat.
Hoff said he believes Monson was using the helicopter for personal instead of business purposes when the accident occurred.
Hoff also said there is no reason to suspect Monson was chemically impaired at the time of the crash.
"Eric is a very disciplined pilot, and he simply does not drink when flying," Hoff said.
At Monson's own request, a blood-alcohol test was administered when he arrived at St. Luke's for treatment Friday morning, according to Hoff, who expressed confidence that the results will show the pilot was clean.
Lake Superior Helicopters continues to operate despite the loss of its largest helicopter, which was used for tours. While this part of its operations has been disrupted, Hoff said: "Our core business has continued uninterrupted."
That core business involves teaching aspiring pilots how to fly helicopters, usually using a smaller craft.
Hoff said he already is looking to lease a replacement for the helicopter that crashed Friday, but first the business will need to sort out matters with its insurer. With fall colors beginning to emerge, Hoff said he's eager to obtain a replacement helicopter better suited to offering tours soon.