AMERICAN FORK CANYON, Utah — A National Guard official called it a "blessing" that no one was injured after two Black Hawk helicopters crashed following an incident in American Fork Canyon early Tuesday. Officials had previously stated the crash had occurred in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Aviation Public Affairs Officer Jared Jones said the UH-60 Black Hawks with the 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment were involved in a winter mountain training accident near Mineral Basin at around 9:30 a.m.
As the helicopters were attempting to land in an approved landing zone just outside the Snowbird ski resort, both experienced white out conditions. During the landing, a blade from the second helicopter's main rotor system struck the main helicopter, taking out its tail rotor, forcing one of the helicopters landed on its side.
None of the experienced crew members on either of the helicopters were injured in the accident, although both helicopters were damaged and it's not yet known if either are usable.
“We are grateful that no one was seriously injured thanks to the quick reaction and training of both command pilots,” said Maj. Matthew Green, commander 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion. “Right now, our top priority is taking care of both crews.”
Video below from Billy Halloran shows the moment the helicopters crashed while landing outside Snowbird ski resort.
Although the landing zone was close to a ski area, Jones said skiers were not in any danger during the incident.
"We train this as part of a routine mission set. So both summertime and wintertime mountainous training, including dust and snow conditions, including, we call it full white out condition. In combat, there are places you have to land sometimes that are that difficult and so we do train to that standard," said Jones.
The National Guard announced that all training flights have been canceled until further notice.
Billy Halloran was enjoying a lift on the Mineral Basin chair when he noticed something strange.
“We thought it was an explosion and that it would be a complete mess and thought the worst could have happened,” said Halloran, a snowboarder from New Zealand. “I saw the choppers coming in and, to be honest, it looked kind of weird from the start, thinking this is unusual following so close together.”
A photo from the area showed one helicopter after it had come down in the middle of what appears to be a ski run. The other helicopter can be seen in the background.
Video below shows both Black Hawk helicopters following a training incident in American Fork Canyon (@LifterMike93)
Jones added that no fuel was dumped on the ground during the accident.
As for Halloran, he says he’s glad and surprised it wasn’t worse.
“I work at sea, so I’ve dealt with helicopter landings before, normally ditches don’t go very well,” he said.
It's not known how many people were on the helicopters at the time of the incident.
Video below shows both Black Hawk helicopters before crashing in American Fork Canyon (@LifterMike93)