Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2014

Copter crash kills 5 at NTS

A twin-engine helicopter crashed in a remote and rugged area of the Nevada Test Site, killing the five-man crew.

The crash occurred 110 miles northwest of Las Vegas shortly after 9:15 p.m. Wednesday while the pilot was on a routine flight exercise.

The deaths mark the worst single accident in the history of the 40-year-old proving ground, where the nation's nuclear weapons exploded in periodic underground tests.

U.S. Department of Energy recovery teams waited until sunrise today to attempt to reach the desolate site in the northwest section, DOE spokeswoman Karen Randolph said.

Two of the dead were employees of EG&G, a firm contracted by the DOE for test site surveillance.

Glenn W. Ewton, Jr., 54, of Las Vegas and Dennis J. Longman, 48, of Logandale, were pilots for the company that does sophisticated monitoring for radiation on the top-secret test site.

It was not known who was at the controls at the time of the accident. Thea cause of the crash remained a mystery.

Also confirmed dead in the fiery crash was Lt. Richard C. Lowery, 51, security inspectors George H. Tolster, 34, and Robert D. Brooks, 28, all of Las Vegas and members of Wackenhut Security, Inc.

DOE contracts with Wackenhut Security, Inc. for guards to protect the remote dessert nuclear proving ground.

"The security crews patrol the boundaries of the test site," DOE spokesman Chris West said. The 1,350-square-mile site is not fenced but is patrolled by four-wheel-drive vehicles and aircraft, he said.

The Messerschmitt BO-105 crew failed to check in at the scheduled 9:30 p.m. time, Randolph said.

The helicopter had taken off around 9 p.m. from an undisclosed location. The last radio contact with the helicopter was made at 9:15 p.m., Randolph said.

"It's tragic," she said this morning.

Rescuers immediately launched an air search with several helicopters from Nellis Air Force Base's 66th Air Rescue Squadron.

Crews spotted a range fire about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday in Area 18 of the test site and confirmed about 1:18 a.m. today that the helicopter was down, she said.

Airmen arriving at the scene confirmed the five men were dead about 1:30 a.m., Randolph said.

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