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Survivors of Rathdrum helicopter crash in critical condition; 1 was owner of controversial Valley helipad

UPDATED: Wed., June 24, 2020

A helicopter crashed outside of Rathdrum Tuesday evening. No one was injured.  (KHQ)
A helicopter crashed outside of Rathdrum Tuesday evening. No one was injured. (KHQ)
By Rebecca White and Emma Epperly The Spokesman-Review

The two survivors of a helicopter crash in Rathdrum Tuesday afternoon sustained critical injuries.

Jay Schranck, 42, of Rathdrum and Jim Charbonneau, 78, from Spokane initially were taken to Kootenai Health hospital but later were transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle to be treated for their injuries, according to a Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office news release.

Both men are in critical condition in Harborview’s intensive care unit.

While it is still unknown who was flying the helicopter, Charbonneau has drawn attention for his flight activities before.

Earlier this year, a Spokane County Superior Court Judge ordered Charbonneau, who lives in the Painted Hills neighborhood just south of Spokane Valley, to shut down and dismantle his helipad at his residence, a decision sought by several of his neighbors. Many had contacted the county and reported the activity, saying a crash or malfunction could put their homes in danger of fire or worse. They also complained about the noise. The county does not allow helipads in residential neighborhoods.

Charbonneau agreed to dismantle his helipad and hired a professional pilot to move his aircraft elsewhere.

Chris Anderson, deputy prosecutor in the county’s civil department, said Charbonneau had complied with the order and moved his helicopter to an unknown location two weeks ago.

According to FAA pilot database records, Schranck is certified as a commercial pilot and flight instructor. Charbonneau has been certified as a student pilot since 2018.

The crash occurred at the northwest corner of state Highway 41 and Wyoming Avenue in Rathdrum at about 5 p.m.

The helicopter crashed into the field from a low altitude, investigators found.

Bystanders rendered initial aid to the two passengers until first responders arrived.

Alcohol and drugs do not appear to be a factor in the crash at this time, according to the sheriff’s office.

Lt. Ryan Higgins, public information officer for the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, said the helicopter they were flying appeared to be a private or home helicopter, and the fire burned off the tail number. He said deputies do not know who was piloting and were unable to question the aircraft’s occupants because they were receiving medical treatment for their injuries.

Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Northwest and Alaska region of the Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter, an Enstrom brand vehicle, crashed under unknown circumstances.

He said both the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.

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