Czech billionaire Petr Kellner among five killed in helicopter crash

  

A helicopter crash in the Alaskan wilderness left five people, including one of Europe’s richest residents, dead after the chopper went down on Saturday during a backcountry heli-skiing trip.


Among the victims was Petr Kellner, 56, who was the Czech Republic’s richest person and one of the 70 richest people in the world last year, according to Forbes.


The Alaska Department of Public Safety said rescuers over the weekend recovered the bodies of Kellner and four others: Benjamin Larochaix, 50, a resident of the Czech Republic; heli-skiing guides Greg Harms, 52, and Sean McManamy, 38; and Zachary Russell, 33, who was piloting the helicopter.


A sixth person, who has not been named as of late Sunday night local time, was in serious but stable condition and being treated at a hospital in the Anchorage area. A rescue team found no other survivors.


It is not immediately clear what caused the Airbus AS350 B3 helicopter to crash. Authorities said that Alaska State Troopers were notified around 10 p.m. local time on Saturday night about an overdue helicopter and possible crash debris near Knik Glacier, about 60 miles northeast of Anchorage.


Authorities said the National Transportation Safety Board would be investigating the incident.


The chopper had been chartered for a backcountry heli-skiing trip by the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge, a representative for the lodge, Mary Ann Pruitt told The Washington Post. With packages starting at $15,000 per person, the lodge bills itself as a multisport luxury facility in the remote Tordrillo mountain range.


Kellner and Larochaix, the two Czech victims, were “loyal and frequent guests” at the Tordrillo lodge, Pruitt said. Kellner, whose net worth was estimated at $17.5 billion, made his fortune selling office supplies and then buying a stake in the Czech Republic’s largest insurance company, Forbes reported.


Heli-skiing, in which a helicopter shuttles athletes to untouched patches of powdery snow, has developed a reputation as a pricey, sought-after goal for many skiers. It is banned for environmental reasons in some European countries, according to the BBC.


 A helicopter crashed on Saturday near Alaska's Knik Glacier, killing five people, authorities said.

McManamy had worked as a heli-ski guide for over a decade, including the last five years at Tordrillo, Pruitt said. He was also an avalanche instructor and an experienced mountain guide at Denali, the tallest peak in North America.


Relatives said McManamy developed an early love for skiing and the outdoors while growing up in New England, a passion that eventually took him to wilderness training school in Colorado. He split his time between Girdwood, Alaska, and California, where he and his wife Caitlin had recently purchased an apartment.


“He was a great person. He was adventurous and dedicated but devoted to family as well,” his uncle, Rob McManamy, told The Post. “We all admired him because he was doing things most of us can only dream about.”


Harms, who had worked at Tordrillo for 15 years, was “one of the most experienced guides in the business” and a pioneer in Alaskan heli-skiing, Pruitt said. Through his own company, Third Edge Heli, he led excursions to mountain ranges in Chile.


In Alaska, meanwhile, the Coloradan had recently set a world record for making 101 runs over a 24-hour period, according to the lodge’s website.


Russell, of Anchorage, was employed by Soloy Helicopters, the company confirmed to The Post. The Wasilla-based outfit owns and operates a fleet of 17 helicopters for a range of industries, including firefighting and diamond and seismic drill exploration, its website said.


In a statement, the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge said that it was the first time it has faced “an event of this measure” in its 17 years in business.


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