LIMA, Peru — Seven employees of Portland-based Columbia Helicopters were killed in a Monday crash in a jungle area of Peru, including pilot Dan Immel, of Washington State.
Peruvian authorities say the heavy-lift chopper crashed Monday after taking off from the provincial capital of Pucallpa.
Pilot Dann Immel flew for logging companies and on firefighting efforts across the Northwest and the country before working with Columbia Helicopters.
"He was a great pilot, husband and father," Immel's wife Nancy said. "Safety came first before anything he did. He never compromised that."
Columbia Helicopters president Michael Fahey identified the helicopter as a Boeing Model 234 tandem rotor, the civilian version of the military Chinook. No passengers were on the chopper, which was involved in supporting petroleum exploration.
“This is a very sad day for Columbia Helicopters,” Fahey said in a statement. “We may operate globally, but we are still very much a family. The loss of our employees hurts deeply, and I knew most of these men personally. Our employees are grieving, and we are praying for the family members of the friends we lost.”
He said a team of company investigators has gone to Peru to work closely with authorities and witnesses.
Local police official Miguel Cardoso said Tuesday morning that three bodies have been so far been recovered. He says it appears all of the victims had jumped from the chopper.
“We’ll do everything we can to determine the cause of the accident and remedy anything we become aware of,” Fahey said. “If there is anything and we’ll facilitate all of the programs to assist with grief counseling and benefits and life insurance and all those sorts of things so the families know they are in our care.”
Fahey identified the employees who died as:
Dann Immel, Command Pilot (hometown: Gig Harbor, WA)
Igor Castillo, Copilot (Peru)
Edwin Cordova, Maintenance Crew Chief (Melbourne, FL)
Luis Ramos, Aircraft Mechanic (Peru)
Jaime Pickett, Aircraft Mechanic (Clarksville, TN)
Darrel Birkes, Senior Load Manager (Peru)
Leon Bradford, Load Manager (Santaquin, UT)