Coast Guard rescues 1 survivor from helicopter crash, searching for 3 more

Josh Pepperd, the president and owner of Davis Constructors, is missing from a helicopter that crashed Friday evening near Yakutat.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The United States Coast Guard has rescued one person from the site of a helicopter crash Friday in Southeast Alaska as crews continue searching for three potential survivors.

The helicopter, flying with two adults and two children, was heading to Yakutat when Coast Guard officials in Juneau received an overdue alert around 6:30 p.m.

The pilot has been identified by the Alaska State Troopers as Josh Pepperd, 42, the president of Davis Constructors and Engineers, a large construction firm that operates across Alaska.

The two children have been identified as Andrew, 11, and Aiden, 14, Pepperd's sons.

Pepperd who has years of experience flying was behind the controls next to a man who taught him how to fly. Tim DeSpain, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers, says the second man and instructor is 53-year-old David King from Palmer.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew launched from Sitka at 8:15 p.m. Friday evening to search for the missing helicopter. Using a GPS locator, a crew landed on a beach "about three miles east of Lituya Bay, where the crew's rescue swimmer located the boy."

The 14-year-old boy Aiden survived the crash and was flown to Sitka, he was said to be suffering from mild hypothermia. The missing boy is Pepperd's other son, Andrew.

DeSpain said the plane's fuselage had been found in shallow water and investigators were trying to determine if anyone was inside the helicopter.

Clint Johnson, spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board, said this was very much an active search and rescue mission.

DeSpain said the a majority of the search was being conducted by the Coast Guard and the Civil Air Patrol but troopers were coordinating search and rescue dogs to search the shorelines.

The goal, DeSpain explained, was to understand if anyone made it to shore.

Johnson said that two investigators from the NTSB were going to assist with the investigation with one coming from Anchorage as another one arrived from Washington D.C.

The helicopter is believed to have crashed in shallow water, according to Johnson. He said the remoteness of the area was making communication with crews difficult.

“We did not locate any other survivors tonight but the Coast Guard and others will conduct a thorough search Saturday,” said Lt. Kellen Browne, the Coast Guard helicopter co-pilot for Friday's rescue.

The helicopter is brand new, built by Airbus Helicopters, with the long trip starting in Grand Prairie, Texas, bound for Wasilla.

Bob Cox, a spokesperson for Airbus Helicopters, wrote that the company "stands readily available to assist further as needed. Our thoughts are with the family and everyone affected by this tragic accident.”

Johnson said that one representative from Airbus and one from Safran, a company that manufactured the helicopter's engine, were being flown in to assist with the investigation.

Pepperd is also a top contributor to Dunleavy for Alaska, a pac that aims to help Mike Dunleavy be elected as Alaska's next governor.

“We’re praying Josh Pepperd and his son Andrew are found unharmed, for Aiden’s full recovery, and for the safety of all involved in the search and rescue operation. My heart goes out to their family during this incredibly difficult time,” wrote Dunleavy in a statement.