Helicopter taken down by elk was part of DWR's big game program

    Helicopter taken down by elk was part of DWR's big game program (Photo: KUTV)

    (KUTV) - Wasatch County search and rescue teams responding to a chopper crash that was caused by an elk in northeastern Utah said they can’t believe the crew on board managed to walk away with just scratches and bruises.

    “The human element to all of it was, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we just survived this thing,' ” Deputy Chief Jared Rigby with Wasatch County Sheriff Department said, “They were shaken up, but at the same time they did an awesome job; they really did. They brought that aircraft down without making it any worse than what it was and injuring and killing themselves.”

    The two-man crew from Texas had been contracted through Utah’s Division of Wildlife resources to help track and capture elk as part of its ongoing big game program.

    Mark Hadley with DWR said it can sometimes be a dangerous job but they’ve never had a big game animal bring down a chopper before.

    “We capture and collar hundreds of animals every winter and we’ve never had this happen before,” Hadley said.

    Hadley says the pilot was flying less than 10 feet above the ground when the gunner in the back seat shot the net onto the elk. But it didn’t drop the animal to the ground like it was supposed to.

    “It didn’t tangle its legs, so the elk was still standing,” Hadley said.

    The elk then somehow hit the back rotor and that sent the chopper to the ground.

    “It was only about 10 feet off the ground and was able to just bring it right back down to the ground,” Hadley said. “Anytime we do this kind of capture work there are always things that can go wrong. We know that there are risks involved.”

    The elk was killed.

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