Grand Canyon, AZ Plane and Helicopter Collide, June 1986


Grand Canyon Village, Ariz (AP) -- The collision of a helicopter and a twin-engine sightseeing plane over the Grand Canyon that killed 25 people may help end unregulated flights over national parks, a congressman says.
"As is so often the case, it takes a sad tragedy like this to point out the need for some reasonable safeguards," Rep. RICHARD LEHMAN, D-Calif., a member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Recreation, said of the collision Wednesday morning.
Emergency crews reached the crash side on a sloping shelf one mile from the Colorado River and 2,000 feet above it, and were to begin removing bodies today to a temporary morgue and then to Flagstaff 130 miles away.
The plane's tail section was found roughly one-quarter of a mile away from the rest of the wreckage and probably was sheared off in the collision, said Park Ranger CHARLIE PETERSON, the first to reach the crash site.
The pilots of both craft had been keeping track of other aircraft visually and neither was being tracked by FAA radar, said LARRY BJORK of the Federal Aviation Administration's flight service at Prescott.
Those aboard the Grand Canyon Airlines plane included 11 Dutch, two Swiss, one South African and six Americans, said CHARLES FARRABE, a National Park Service management assistant.
Authorities said the four passengers aboard the helicopter and the pilot were Americans.
Authorities released only the names of the airplane crew -- JAMES INGRAHAM and BRUCE GRUBB -- and helicopter pilot JOHN THYBONY. There were no survivors.
Helitech Inc., which owned the five-person Bell 206 helicopter, was new to the area, said Granc Canyon National Park Superintendent DICK MARKS.
"They've been open a matter of three weeks, but the pilots have all flown in the area for many years," he said.
Grand Canyon Airlines spokeswoman MARY DONALDSON and a spokesman for Helitech both declined comment.
Environmentalists have opposed the more than 50,000 low-level flights over the canyon each year, saying they keep hikers and backpackers from enjoying the grandeur of the park amid natural sights and sounds. Tourism companies counter that mechanized transportation is the only way the infirm and handicapped can experience the same sights.
But LEHMAN said the crash raises another question, one of public safety.
"It is clear .. that the days of voluntary supervision and self-regulation of these flights are over," said LEHMAN, whose district includes Yosemite National Park.
He said he wants federal law to prohibit flights over the canyon below a certain altitude. The FAA and the park service have set a floor of 2,000 feet above the canyon rims, but park veterans say it is not enforced.
The park service has rejected proposed limits on days and times of flights around the canyon but is studying proposals to ban planes below the canyon's rim in a effort to reduce noise.

Constitution Tribune Chillicothe Missouri 1986-06-19

Partial list of passengers:
SHERRY GOSS, Joppa, Maryland.