The pilot of a small airplane headed toward Helena died Thursday in a crash in the Big Belt Mountains in Meagher County, Sheriff Jon Lopp said.
The pilot’s wife, who was the only survivor of the crash, was airlifted to St. Peter's Hospital in Helena Thursday afternoon, he said.
“They said she was pretty banged up, but fairly stable,” he added.
The middle-aged Canadian man and wife took off from Great Falls with Helena as their destination when the crash occurred west of White Sulphur Springs, Lopp said. They had previously flown from Canada to Great Falls, he said.
The passenger called the Meagher County Sheriff’s Office at 1 p.m. to report the crash, Lopp said, and Montana State Aeronautics, Malmstrom Air Force Base and Meagher County Search and Rescue mounted a search for the aircraft.
“Malmstrom sent a rescue helicopter up, and the ground searchers all kind of got to the wreckage at the same time,” Lopp said, adding that the search took about five hours.
Officials don’t yet know what caused the Piper PA-32 aircraft to crash, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer wrote in an email. Both the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are looking into the crash, he said, but the NTSB is leading the investigation.