A team is traveling to Utah to conduct a safety investigation into Tuesday’s training accident that involved two Black Hawk helicopters from the Utah Army National Guard.
The team, from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center in Fort Rucker, Alabama, will also decide when the damaged helicopters can be recovered from the crash site located in the Mineral Basin of Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Until the helicopters can be removed, Utah National Guard personnel are working in shifts to secure the crash site and have been provided a warming hut by Snowbird ski patrol, according to a statement from Lt. Col. Jaime Thomas, the state public affairs officer for the Utah National Guard.
“Once the aircraft can be moved, the UH-60 Black Hawks will be sling-loaded out one at a time by a CH-47 Chinook at a safe distance on a safe path to an area where they can be loaded for ground transportation,” the statement said.
The process to remove the helicopters could take days to a few weeks, according to Thomas.
The crash happened around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at a landing zone on Forest Service land just outside of Snowbird ski resort’s boundaries. No serious injuries were reported, according to the Utah National Guard.
While the two Black Hawks were landing, the rotor blades from one of the helicopters detached and hit the other helicopter, said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jared Jones, a spokesman for the National Guard.
“As they landed there was snow kicked up and the aircraft probably lost sight of the ground,” Jones said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
One of the Black Hawks was visible from KSL’s Chopper 5 without blades and resting on its side while the other was upright with blades still attached.
The helicopters were conducting winter mountain training that includes landing in whiteout conditions.
“In combat there are places you have to land sometimes that are that difficult and so we do train to that standard,” Jones said.