No injuries after a Blackhawk helicopter crashed at Mineral Basin near Snowbird
LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah — Two Blackhawk helicopters were involved in a crash Tuesday morning at Mineral Basin, just outside of the Snowbird Ski Resort on U.S. Forest Service Land. Some eyewitnesses said it was a terrifying scene that happened too close to skiers.
Skiers witnessed the Blackhawk crash
Robbie Shine and his two daughters, Emery and Kaia, were watching the helicopters as they approached their landing zone. However, when the first helicopter landed, Emery said she saw a huge plume of powder shoot up in the air.
“After the dust cleared, you could see that one helicopter was tipped over on its side,” Emery said.
Kaia told KSL she saw part of the rear chopper fall off, and debris hit the other Blackhawk.
Kaia said, “I saw the rotor fly off and it was scary because it just started twisting around in the air, from the back one. Then, I saw it crash.”
Their father, Robbie, can remember hearing the frightening sound of metal grinding against itself, calling it unlike any other sound he has ever heard before. The family was on the chair lift during the accident, and he could see one of the choppers was heavily damaged.
“It looked like the rotor on the other one had totally broken in half on one of the blades,” Shine said.
Whiteout conditions were a factor
Military officials confirm the pilots were conducting a routine training exercise, but there was more fresh powder on the landing zone than expected. When the snow was washed into the air, it caused whiteout conditions for the Blackhawk in the rear. Jared Jones with the Utah National Guard‘s Aviation Public Affairs said the helicopters were attempting to land during a training maneuver at an approved landing zone at approximately 9:25 MST.
“The aircraft probably lost sight of the ground,” Jones said, “we know from portions of video that the rotor blade separated from the helicopter and struck the second helicopter.”
Investigators still aren’t certain if the blades of the rear aircraft hit the ground causing them to break, or if the backwash itself was so strong it damaged the rotors.
“Our unit is going to be conducting a safety and accident investigation to determine that and find out more about why that happened,” Jones said.
All eight crew members made it out without being seriously hurt. Jones said they were able to take themselves down the mountain to be checked by medical staff at Snowbird.
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