Two Black Hawk helicopters crashed between Little Cottonwood Canyon and American Fork Canyon on Tuesday morning.
According to the Utah National Guard, the two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a “training accident” near the Mineral Basin area, southeast of Snowbird ski resort.
No crew members were injured in the crash, but both helicopters were damaged, according to the Utah National Guard.
The two helicopters were attempting to land at an approved landing zone about 150 yards from the ski area as part of a routine training exercise, Jared Jones, a spokesperson with the Utah National Guard, said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
But during the attempted landing, the helicopters’ rotor downwash kicked up a cloud of fresh snow, likely causing the first Black Hawk to lose sight of the ground, Jones said.
Witness videos reviewed by crash investigators show a rotor blade separating from the first Black Hawk and striking the second Black Hawk, Jones said. But the second helicopter was able to land quickly.
One witness, Robbie Shine, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he had just finished skiing down Mineral Basin when he saw the helicopters approaching. At the time, the Steamboat, Colorado, resident was about 200 yards from the crash site, he said, while another group of people he saw were “within feet” of one of the Black Hawks when it crashed.
“It was close; it was a pretty scary event,” Shine said. “I think they were intending to be further away in the landing zone. ... Just glad everyone walked away.”
Both pilots involved Tuesday were “very experienced,” Jones said. Each Black Hawk typically carries three two four crew members, he noted.
An incident like this is “quite rare,” he added. The Utah National Guard practices similar training exercises weekly.
The crash remains under investigation. Jones said the helicopters will be removed from the area within a few days.