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5 Americans among 7 dead in Peru chopper crash

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 8, 2013 at 9:30 pm •  Published: January 8, 2013

The aircraft's cargo Monday included an external load of rigging, attached on a platform that hung beneath it on cables, "a very standard operation," said Petersen.

The helicopter was contracted by Canada-based Talisman Energy Inc. but could also have been subcontracted.

A spokeswoman for Talisman, Veronica Bonifaz, said the chopper was not transporting cargo or personnel for it at the time of the crash.

She said she had no more information.

Columbia Helicopters has been in business for 55 years, principally in the United States, and Peter Lance, the company's executive vice president, said it has been operating in Peru for more than a decade, primarily contracted to companies, like Talisman, engaged in oil and gas exploration.

The Chinook that crashed was one of two helicopters Columbia has in Peru.

The company has temporarily grounded six Chinook helicopters for a thorough inspection, Petersen told The Oregonian newspaper, adding they are expected to be out of service two to three days. He didn't immediately respond to an Associated Press phone message after business hours Tuesday to confirm that.

In addition to the second Chinook helicopter in Peru, Columbia has one in Afghanistan on contract to the U.S. military, three in Papua New Guinea and one in the shop in Oregon, The Oregonian reported.

Lance, who said he has been with Columbia Helicopters for 33 years, said it has been at least a decade since a company aircraft crashed.

Its last fatal crash occurred in Canada in 1997 when a Boeing BV-234 engaged in heli-logging operations on Vancouver Island crashed, killing both pilots aboard. Canadian authorities blamed an electrical overload.

According to U.S. National Transportation Safety Board records, in October 1996 a Columbia Helicopters Boeing BV-107 lost control during a maintenance check flight and crashed three miles from the Aurora, Oregon airport, killing both pilots and the onboard mechanic. The NTSB listed a maintenance failure as the probable cause.

In addition to petroleum exploration, Columbia Helicopters provides services to industries including logging, construction and fighting wildfires, according to its website.

It bills itself as "the only operator of the commercial models of the CH-47 Chinook and H-46 Sea Knight helicopters."


Associated Press Writers Carla Salazar in Lima and Steven DuBois in Aurora, Oregon, contributed to this report.