SPOKANE, Wash. – On Monday, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife identified the three crew members who were involved in a helicopter crash in Garfield County.
Officials said a private helicopter flying under contract with WDFW for a mule deer study crashed Saturday, killing one member of the crew and injuring two others.
Washington State Patrol confirmed the crash took the life of Benjamin Poirier, a crew member in the helicopter. The pilot, Blake Malo, 33, of Clarkston and Garrett Bradshaw, 30, of Eagle Point, Oregon were taken from the crash to St. Joseph Medical Center in Lewiston. Officials said all three men were employed by Hells Canyon Helicopter.
“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,” said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth.
Regional WDFW wildlife manager Kevin Robinette said the crash happened about 20 miles northwest of Pomeroy, where the helicopter crew was working with state biologists on the ground to capture and attach radio collars to mule deer to study the animal’s survival and movement. Officials said Saturday was the first day of fieldwork in the Blue Mountains, where they planned to collar up to 50 deer. WDFW staff helped monitor the operation from the ground and drove a fuel truck for the flights.
Authorities said one of the WDFW biologists called law enforcement when a smartphone app tracking the flight showed the helicopter had stopped moving. The crash is being investigated by state and local law enforcement as well as the National Transportation Safety Board.
Officials said the contractor had recently finished similar work in Okanogan where the crew collared about 80 does during several days of flying.