Crew member dies, 2 others injured in helicopter crash during mule deer survey

POMEROY, Wash. (AP) — A 19-year-old Colorado man was killed and two others on board were injured during the crash of a helicopter contracted by Washington state to help with a mule deer survey, authorities said Monday.

Benjamin M. Poirier of Berthoud, Colorado, died when the aircraft crashed Saturday during the first day of deer capture efforts in the Blue Mountains as part of a research project on movement and survival of animals, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Pilot Blake Malo, 33, of Clarkston, Washington, and another crew member, Garrett Bradshaw, 30, of Eagle Point, Oregon, were taken to St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

The three men were employed by Hells Canyon Helicopters, which was flying under contract with the state wildlife agency. A woman who returned a message left with the company said the families are still in shock. She declined further comment.

“This is a tragic accident that will be deeply felt not only by the families but by members of our own staff who have worked with this dedicated crew,” wildlife agency Director Jim Unsworth said in a statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into the crash about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Spokane.

Federal investigators were working to recover the aircraft and will examine it at a secure location, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said Monday.

The helicopter crew was working with state wildlife biologists on the ground to capture and attach radio collars to mule deer does. They had hoped to collar up to 50 deer.

A state wildlife biologist notified law enforcement officials when a smartphone app tracking the flight showed it had stopped moving.