SILT — The Garfield County Coroner’s Office on Tuesday formally released the names of the three people who died in a Monday helicopter crash in the Dry Hollow area south of here during a routine aerial inspection of power lines.
In addition to local helicopter pilot Doug Sheffer of Basalt, the owner and chief pilot for DBS Helicopters out of Rifle, the accident also claimed the lives of Rifle resident and longtime Holy Cross Energy worker Larry Shaffer, and that of Christopher Gaskill of Aurora.
The ages of the three men were not released by the coroner’s office.
Gaskill worked for HotShot Infrared Inspections out of Fort Collins, a company worker who answered the phone on Tuesday confirmed.
The crash happened at 11:18 a.m. Monday when a BELL LongRanger helicopter piloted by Sheffer and contracted by Holy Cross Energy to assist in monitoring and checking for trouble spots on power lines in the area apparently hooked a transmission line and crashed.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA were at the site of the crash 1.6 miles south of Silt on Tuesday to conduct an official investigation into the cause. A call to the NTSB Central Regional Office in Denver was not returned on Tuesday.
According to a statement released Tuesday by Holy Cross Energy, Shaffer had worked with the company for more than 28 years as a crew foreman and journeyman lineman.
“As a member of the Operations Department, Larry worked his way up the ranks and was ultimately promoted to crew foreman in August 2007,” according to the company news release. “His experience and dedication spanned a variety of overhead and underground electric distribution projects including new construction and system improvements.”
Shaffer’s work also involved routine service and maintenance, and responding to outages around the clock.
“Along with the Holy Cross family, Larry was well respected by the members of his crew and best known for his infectious grin, welcoming smile, and positive attitude,” according to the company statement.
Co-worker and friend Todd Jacob commented in the news release, “The consummate storyteller, he never knew a stranger. He had an incredible memory — once he met somebody, he knew their family and could recall events, even conversations, years later.”
Added another Holy Cross crew member and friend, Daniel Nunn, “He was down-to-earth with a work ethic unmatched by anyone. He was not afraid to get dirty, and not afraid of work. It was hard to keep up with him.”
Shaffer was extremely involved with his children and grandchildren, and with his church, according to the Holy Cross release.
He is survived by his wife, Jo, children Dane, Cole and Stefanie, and two grandchildren (Dane’s children), Hannah and Blake.
“Holy Cross, its employees and board of directors ask the community to keep Larry’s family in their thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time,” the company also said in its statement.
A fund to support Shaffer’s family has been established in Larry Shaffer’s name at Alpine Bank.
Garfield County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Walt Stowe said the ground investigation was expected to be completed on Tuesday. He did not know if the wreckage was to be removed immediately.
Based on eye witness accounts of the crash, Stowe said it appeared the runner on the helicopter hooked one of the upper, secondary lines and not one of the main transmission lines before it crashed into a deep gully on the east side of Dry Hollow Road (County Road 331).
A series of power lines operated by both Holy Cross and Xcel Energy run in different directions through the area, he said.