‘Ax man’ dies in Ore. logging copter crash

9-16-13-helicopter crash-Linn County Sheriffs Office
This logging helicopter crashed Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in the woods near the Linn County and Marion County border. One person died in the crash. (Courtesy Linn County Sheriff's Office)

IDANHA, Ore. (KOIN) — A logging helicopter crashed in Oregon Monday, killing a member of the “Ax Men” reality show.

The 1962 Bell UH1B helicopter crashed at a logging site on National Forest land near the Linn/Marion county border, authorities told KOIN 6 News.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene — about two miles from Highway 22 near Idanah, Ore.

The pilot, 54-year-old William Bart Colantuono, was the only one in the aircraft. He is from Indialantic, Fla., and had appeared on the History Channel reality show “Ax Men.” He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Witnesses told deputies the helicopter was being used to transport logs from the cutting area to a log deck in Idanha, said Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller.

“It had just returned after the pilot had taken a 45 minute break,” Mueller reported in a news release. “The helicopter had picked up a load when witnesses reported hearing a loud snapping sound, which was followed by logs hitting the ground.”

Reports are that the pilot appeared to release the logs electronically, indicating the pilot knew of a problem prior to the crash.

Witnesses then reported seeing a rotor separate from the helicopter, followed by the copter “turning upside down and falling to the ground,” Mueller wrote.

The sheriff’s office reports the helicopter is owned by Umatilla Lift Services, also from Indialantic, Fla. Umatilla Lift Services reportedly was subcontracted by R&R Conner Aviation from Montana to fly logs from the logging site for Freres Lumber Co. in Mill City, Ore.

Linn County Deputies, U.S. Forest Service personnel, Detroit and Gates Fire Departments, along with medics from the Lyons Fire Department assisted at the scene. The Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have been notified.

The investigation into the crash continues Monday night. The helicopter had not been removed from the scene as of Monday; FAA investigators planned to inspect it Tuesday.

Colantuono’s body was taken to Weddle Funeral Home in Stayton, Ore. – “pending further arrangements,” according to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

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