More detail on this person: AP , Associated
Press Oct. 13, 1997 8:57 AM ET
SAGO, W.Va. (AP) _ A coal company executive and a state education official were among four people killed when a helicopter crashed in a remote area of Upshur County.
John Faltis, 55, president of Anker Energy Corp. in Morgantown, and his wife, Kathleen, 48, were killed in Sunday's crash, police said. Mrs. Faltis was a member of the state Board of Education.
Also killed were pilot Barth Bartholomae, 54, of Coraopolis, Pa., and photographer Greg Adams, 47, of Morgantown, said state police Sgt. Fred Knight.
Police could not say what caused the Bell 206 Jet Ranger to crash into a woody hillside near the Buckhannon River around 11 a.m.
It took rescue workers about 30 minutes on foot to get to the crash site because trucks could not get through the woods, said Buckhannon firefighter Joe Bennett. The crashed chopper did not burn.
``It was a pretty rough extrication. The area is pretty much straight up and straight down,'' Knight said. All four victims were dead when rescuers arrived.
The helicopter was owned by Burgettstown, Pa.-based Royale Helicopter Service. It was being used to take pictures of a coal preparation plant, police said.
According to a statement from Anker Coal Group Executive Vice President Bruce Sparks, the pilot Bartholomae also was president of the helicopter company. Phone messages to the company were not immediately returned Sunday night. Sparks said the helicopter apparently lost power before it went down. Officials with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration could not immediately be reached for comment.
Both agencies will investigate the accident, police said.
There was no indication the pilot sent a distress signal or a call for help before the crash, police said.
A fifth person who had been let off the helicopter minutes before it crashed witnessed the accident and called police. Police would not release that person's name but Sparks said he is a president of an Anker subsidiary.
``He said they seemed to be slowing down to take pictures when he noticed they kept losing altitude,'' Sparks said. John Faltis led an effort to fight river pollution from his own industry.
In 1995, Faltis pledged $200,000 a year to combat acid runoff from abandoned coal mines that killed plants and fish in the Cheat River.
Anker Energy later bought an inactive, acid-plagued Upshur County strip mine as a demonstration site for new technology designed for the cleanup plan. It was unclear if that was where the helicopter crashed.
The U.S. Office of Surface Mining awarded Faltis its Trailblazer award in 1995 for his company's attention to the environment.
Faltis also had been a player in West Virginia politics, as Anker Energy donated $25,000 and Faltis gave $10,000 to Gov. Cecil Underwood's 1997 inauguration ceremonies.
``Clearly it's a tragedy that it takes four people, including the Faltises, both of whom have made significant personal and professional contributions to West Virginia in both the private sector and the public sector,'' said Underwood spokesman Rod Blackstone.
State schools Superintendent Hank Marockie said Kathleen Faltis was ``totally committed to advancing education in West Virginia.''
``She brought a tremendous energy to the board. She brought the sense of an astute businesswoman, as well as outstanding background in education,'' Marockie said.
In April 1996, a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter crash in Charleston killed the head of the state police aviation division and his predecessor. The National Transportation Safety Board ruled out pilot error in that crash. A section of the tail boom separated in midair.
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