Permafrost expert and military pilot among 4 killed in a helicopter crash on Alaska’s North Slope

Last week, during a scientific mission, the 1996 Bell 206 helicopter that Ronald Daanen, 51, and Justin Germann, 27, both from Fairbanks, Tori Moore, 26, of South Bend, Indiana, and pilot Bernard “Tony” Higdon, 48, of North Pole, Alaska were in, tragically crashed into a lake, resulting in the loss of all their lives.

The three travelers were workers of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, operating in the Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident. Divers from Alaska recovered the bodies of three scientists and a helicopter pilot on Sunday, from the wreckage of the aircraft that had gone down in a shallow lake approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow, the northernmost city in the U.S.

Daanen, a native of the Netherlands, was known as MacGyver among his coworkers. Whether it was repairing a generator or fixing a broken tent pole, his colleagues relied on his ability to instantly resolve any issue. Additionally, he was always wearing a smile.

Howie Epstein, a professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, said that they study changes in the tundra and permafrost in the Arctic during their fieldwork in the summer. He described him as a good-natured guy who is caring and kind.

They feasted on a colossal wheel of gouda cheese, resembling a curling stone, that Daanen transported to a minuscule island in Siberia for an entire week. Epstein expressed his delight when Daanen presented his homemade spruce-tipped gin during their time on the North Slope.

Anna Liljedahl, an associate scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center and an affiliate professor at the University of Fairbanks Alaska, mentioned that they created elaborate ice sculptures, usually with a science theme, to provide an educational opportunity for teaching people about Arctic landscapes and permafrost. Ina Timling, his wife, and Daanen also competed in the World Ice Art Championships.

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“We’ve lost a remarkable friend and coworker,” she said of Daanen, who was a geologist for the state.

She said he was a brilliant scientist with a wide range of interests. The key components of his work were frozen water and ground, known as permafrost.

He joined the North Dakota National Guard because his parents wanted him to sign up when he turned 18, and he used the opportunity to pay for college. By joining the North Dakota National Guard, he was able to finance his way through college. Germann was a hydrologist who earned degrees from the University of North Dakota.

“He’s resolute, a young man who pursued his aspiration and achieved a great deal in his life,” his mother Karla said.

After finishing an internship in Alaska, he promptly made arrangements to go back.

She chuckled and stated, “For me, which is absolutely insane, paddle a kayak and simply hike and cycle in the snow, that was his aspiration to be in southwest North Dakota. I don’t believe he would ever return.”

Instead of visiting Germann in Alaska in September, the family will be traveling to Fairbanks this week for an informal memorial. Following his death, his family contacted his Alaska friends, who have been providing comfort to his mother.

“He had many incredible companions up there, and we are eagerly anticipating meeting them,” she expressed.

“On her LinkedIn page, she expressed her fascination with biogeochemistry, planetary science, and environmental science. As a recent graduate from Indiana University, class of 2019, she obtained a degree in geological and earth sciences.”

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Her relatives refused to provide any statement regarding her demise.

In November, Higdon became a full-time pilot for Maritime Helicopters, flying the EC145 Eurocopter and the 407 Bell, while accumulating a total of 2,000 combined flight hours.

He will be greatly missed. We all knew Tony as a highly skilled and professional pilot. The company praised Higdon’s statement.

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