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Four hurt in AESRD helicopter crash

WHITECOURT — Four were sent to hospital Tuesday after a helicopter contracted to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (AESRD) crashed southwest of Whitecourt.

Sources tell the Star the aircraft crashed about 55 km. west of Whitecourt near the Windfall gas plant in the early afternoon.

"On the scale of helicopter crashes, this one was relatively minor in nature," said RCMP spokesman Cpl. John Spaans.

Transportation Safety Board spokesman Chris Krepski said the helicopter, a Bell 206 Jetranger, was carrying one pilot and three passengers at the time of the crash.

"They were doing Pine Beetle survey work west of Whitecourt," Krepski said.

"During the flight, they encountered a loss of tail rotor effectiveness due to the wind."

A helicopter's tail rotor counteracts torque created by the main overhead blades, preventing the aircraft from spinning out of control.

Krepski said that the helicopter started to spin, contacted some trees and rolled over before hitting the ground.

While the aircraft sustained 'substantial damage,' the four occupants only received minor injuries.

Spaans said police were dispatched to secure the scene for the TSB, who have since taken over the investigation, who say they are gathering information but will not be dispatching an investigator to the scene.

The injured were transported to Whitecourt's airport by helicopter, where they met EMS and were taken to hospital with minor injuries. Two in the crash managed to walk away from the wreck.

Initially dispatched to the scene, STARS Air Ambulance were later stood down by scene commanders on the ground.

The helicopter was owned by Valhalla Helicopters — a commercial aviation firm based in Kelowna, B.C. and a regular crew and aircraft contractor to AESRD.

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