Utility Crew Perish in Cable Connection

Thursday, January 30, 2014
By George Hatcher

The DBS Helicopters Bell 206L-3 LongRanger III helicopter in Silt, Colorado, that got tangled in power cables doing Holy Cross Energy powerline inspections crashed, killing the pilot and crew.

The accident occurred at 11:20 a.m. where the shared Holy Cross and Xcel Energy power lines cross Dry Hollow Road about 1.6 miles south of Silt. There were witnesses who saw the accident and attempted to help.

The poles that were being inspected were fifty feet high, and the helicopter was supposed to be flying thirty feet over that.

The small fifty-foot debris field is on rough hilly terrain.

Owner and chief pilot for DBS Helicopters, Doug Sheffer died in the accident. He had 22 years and 8,000 hours of flight time. Larry Shaffer who worked for Holy Cross Energy and Christopher Gaskill who worked for HotShot Infrared Inspections were also fatalities. They were filming the trouble spots along the route, and recording the locations on GPS.

I do not want to diminish the tragedy of this accident by saying that helicopter accidents such as this are common, but I will say they happen too frequently, even when the pilot has significant experience flying in mountain terrain, and rescue.

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