Breaking news: Renowned local helicopter pilot and two passengers killed in crash

by Nelson Harvey, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer
Doug Sheffer, well respected mountain rescue pilot, killed during powerline inspection

A routine inspection of power lines maintained by Holy Cross Energy appears to have gone terribly wrong late Monday morning when the helicopter that inspectors were using crashed, killing everyone on board.

Doug Sheffer, the owner and chief pilot for DBS Helicopters of Rifle, was among the dead, according to friends and colleagues of his with close knowledge of the crash.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has not released the names of the other two people on board, although spokesman Walter Stowe said that they apparently died at the scene. 

Sheffer was a well-known, well-respected helicopter pilot in the region, who frequently flew high country rescue missions with Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA).

“We are shocked to hear the news,” said MRA director Jeff Edelson. “He was a very talented pilot, and we used him on many missions up on high peaks, performing dangerous rescues.

“Doug and the DBS team were a very important resource for us,” Edelson said. “My heart goes out to his friends and family.” 

The crash apparently happened when the helicopter’s blade hooked a power line and was sent careening to the ground, according to Stowe.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
Doug Sheffer, chief pilot and owner of DBS Helicopters, stands in front his helicopter at the Maroon Bells after assisting Mountain Rescue Aspen in the summer of 2012. Sheffer died on Monday after his helicopter crashed in Silt.

First responders got a call from an eyewitness to the crash around 11:20 a.m. Monday, Stowe said. The crash took place about 1.5 miles south of Silt, near the 1.6 mile marker of Dry Hollow Road.

Stowe said that as of 2 p.m., emergency responders from the sheriff’s office and the Bureau of Land Management’s Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit were on the scene working to extricate the victims from the helicopter’s wreckage.

Holy Cross Energy had contracted with DBS Helicopters and HotShot Infrared Inspections of Ft. Collins to inspect 250 miles of its power lines between Dubuque and Aspen. The goal of the inspections was to search for so-called “hot spots,” or areas handling substantial electrical current and giving off heat that could pose a fire hazard in the summer months.

Stowe said there would likely be an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board or another federal agency into the crash, although he didn’t have details on which agency would perform the investigation.

County Road 331 is closed on either side of the crash site; traffic is being directed to alternate routes. It is expected that the road will remain closed for the next 12 to 48 hours until all site investigations are complete.

This story will be updated as information becomes available.