Timothy B. Lyons, 69, was from Port Bolivar, Texas and a member of the Portland-based company Erickson Inc. which also has facilities in Medford. He worked with the company for 19 years and was considered an experienced pilot by an Erickson spokesperson.
In a phone interview with Erickson Chief of Staff, Chris Schuldt, on Wednesday Lyons was performing a routine training exercise something pilots are required to do annually. Lyons was flying an Erickson Bell 206 helicopter as part of the training.
Schuldt said around noon, Lyons was expected to be back but never returned to the airport.
“It was a short flight so noon was about when we identified that the aircraft was overdue,” he said.
Soon after, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue teams were mobilized and within a couple of hours, the wreck was found just southeast of Exit 6 of Interstate 5.
“I’d say it comes as a shock to us,” said Schuldt. “It’s something that hit’s us at Erickson deep to our core because he was a part of our family.”
Before joining Erickson, Lyons served nearly 20 years, from 1973 to 1992, in the U.S. Marine Corps and Army Reserves flying for both. It’s unknown how the crash occurred and with Lyons years of experience, it’s left the company scratching its head.
But in light of the government shutdown, answers may be hard to come by as National Transportation Safety Board deals with lack of funds and furloughed employees.
NBC5 News attempted to reach a member of the NTSB for comment on this investigation but did not receive a callback. Messages could not be left with media personnel as well as no one was available to take calls.
However, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson did respond to an NBC5 News request about the investigation saying investigators were already looking into the accident.
FAA inspectors have already begun investigating this accident. We may send someone to the crash site later today.
For more than a week, we have been recalling safety inspectors and others to perform duties to ensure continuous operational safety of the entire national airspace system. These duties include on-call accident investigations.
– Ian Gregor, Communications Manager, FAA Pacific Division.
Investigators were expected to reach the remote area of the crash Thursday afternoon. But Erickson is still seeking answers for Tim Lyons and his family.
“We reach out to his loved ones and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” said Schuldt.
It’s still unclear what may happen once investigators with the FAA finish their examination. According to a report by CNN, since the shutdown began, 87 accident investigations usually performed by the NTSB, have been delayed.
No word if this crash will face the same fate. An autopsy has yet to be scheduled for the body as well.