Helicopter crash in South Rifle area sends two to hospital, touches off brush fire
Air crew was checking Xcel power lines for future repairs
Federal aviation inspectors have been called in to investigate a Saturday morning helicopter crash south of Rifle that sent the two occupants to the hospital and touched off a small brush fire.
Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said the crash was reported at 7:36 a.m. Saturday by a couple who were passing by on nearby Interstate 70 and witnessed the crash.
The two-person helicopter went down just inside Rifle city limits, beneath the Xcel Energy power lines south of Airport Road and the Colorado Mountain College Rifle Campus.
Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo confirmed that the helicopter was carrying a third-party subcontracting crew that was taking pictures for future work on the lines.
“What we know is the two crew members were taken to the hospital for observation,” she said in an emailed statement. “Our thoughts are with the crew members and their families. We will be working with officials in their investigation.”
The pilot and a passenger, both males, were reportedly able to get out of the wrecked chopper before it erupted in flames, Klein said. They were transported to Grand River Hospital for treatment. An update on their condition was not available as of Sunday evening.
Klein said it was a smaller two-person private helicopter, but couldn’t say what type. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration arrived on the scene Saturday afternoon and will conduct the formal accident investigation.
Also on scene initially was Rifle Garfield County Airport Director Brian Condie, as well as officers from the Rifle Police Department and Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Colorado River Fire Rescue wildland fire crews were able to contain the resulting fire following the crash, according to a Sheriff’s Office press release.
Helicopters are commonly used to conduct power line inspections, often with infrared photography to check for trouble spots.
A fatal helicopter crash in the Divide Creek area south of Silt in January 2014 also involved a crew that was inspecting power lines for Holy Cross Energy. The crash killed all three people on board, including longtime Holy Cross employee Larry Shaffer from Rifle, HotShot Infrared Inspections worker Christopher Gaskill of Aurora, and longtime area search-and-rescue and work-for-hire helicopter pilot Doug Sheffer.
Power outage in Carbondale
About the same time Saturday morning, Xcel Energy reported a power outage affecting parts of Carbondale. The incident was not related to the helicopter crash, but was due to animal contact at a transformer, Aguayo said.
The outage was reported at 7:31 a.m. and caused 70 customers to lose power. Service has since been restored, she said.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
After Garfield County Public Health reported a spate of new positive Covid-19 cases over the past week, some county leaders spent much of a special meeting Monday afternoon addressing the current number of cases, the…