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When we put together last month’s review of the Atlantic salmon season on the Kola Peninsula of Russia, we were unaware that a major accident occurred out that way in late July – namely, a helicopter crash that killed two British anglers and a Russian guide. No, the chopper that crashed was not one of those huge rattletrap Russian machines, but a modern European helicopter that was used at the Atlantic Salmon Reserve’s Rynda Lodge (www.kharlovka.com) to ferry clients to and from fishing beats on a daily basis.
It is not clear what caused the crash at this point. The Telegraph in London, which broke the story, says the helicopter was taking off when it was hit by a blast of wind that sent it crashing to the ground, striking the two anglers and a guide who were watching the craft get airborne. Justin Maxwell Stuart of Where Wise Men Fish (www.wherewisemenfish.com) did not go that far in the comment he sent us. Stuart is actively involved in booking ASR. “The helicopter was in the process of taking off, having just dropped off the anglers,” he says. “Conditions were clear and there was no wind. Until the crash investigators release their findings, I really do not have any additional information.”
At this point, no one is pointing fingers at ASR for sloppiness. The group’s printed literature and Web site mention safety repeatedly. To our knowledge there have not been previous accidents at any of ASR properties. U.K. Angling Report subscriber Ueli Zellweger, who tipped us off about the accident, says he has flown on the chopper that crashed at least a dozen times. “It was brand new,” he writes. “I would return to Rynda Lodge again without a second thought.” Stuart of Where Wise Men Fish had this to add to the discussion: “The pilot involved in the crash was one of the most experienced pilots on the Kola. He was thought of as a friend by many anglers who have flown with him over the last 15 years or so. Past guests, we are heartened to see, have been extremely forthcoming in their support to ASR and that reflects the incredibly high standards we have maintained at our camps.”
If the ongoing investigation turns up anything newsworthy, we will let you know. At this point, we believe this was just a freak occurrence – one of those things that happens occasionally when complicated machines are put into service. Our condolences to the anglers and the guide who were killed and to the staff and management of Atlantic Salmon Reserve.