Man injured by helicopter blade

by Phil Ambroziak

A La Loche man is on the road to recovery in an Edmonton hospital after being struck in the head by a helicopter blade last week.

The incident occurred early Tuesday, Aug. 6 when he – along with two other workers – was exiting an AS-350 chopper to take part in a geological survey near Forrest Lake north of La Loche. The helicopter’s blades were still spinning at the time of the occurrence.

Sources, including a member of the victim’s family, confirmed his identity as Leroy Park.

“The fellow was working for Discovery Int’l Geophysics Inc. out of Saskatoon, which was doing a ground survey for Fission Uranium, a company based out of Kelowna, B.C.,” explained Clearwater River Dene Nation chief Teddy Clarke. “Some of our guys from La Loche were working with their crew. The way I understand it, the helicopter landed in a marshy area and it sunk into the ground a bit. When the guy exited, he was crouched down. I guess he thought he’d cleared it, so he stood up and it smashed the top of his head.”

Brent Robertson of Discovery Int’l Geophysics confirmed Park was not an employee of his company, but rather worked for Big Bear Contracting Inc. Discovery Int’l Geophysics recently hired contractors to help them with their surveying work in the North.

“I’m not entirely sure if there will be any long-term damages, but I do understand he’s making a recovery,” Robertson said.
While he couldn’t say exactly what happened between the time Park exited the vehicle and the moment he was hit, Chris Krepski of the Transportation Safety Board said his organization is still assessing the incident to determine whether or not a further investigation is warranted.

“In this case, the helicopter made a landing on a muskeg helipad and the front part of the skid began to sink, making it lower to the ground than normal,” he said.

Immediately following the incident, others in attendance administered First Aid before transporting Park to nearby Big Bear camp. From there, he was prepped before being flown to Fort McMurray and then on to Edmonton where he underwent surgery.

“He was responsive while they were prepping him,” Clarke said. “His wife and daughter were flown down to be with him and, although he’s still in hospital, he’s recovering – things are progressing very well. He’s conscious, talking to his family and knows who they are. This guy was very lucky.”

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