ST. GEORGE — A Toquerville man who survived a helicopter crash in Pennsylvania earlier this month is recovering in a hospital in Pittsburgh.
Chase Olsen, a father of three and helicopter pilot who grew up in Toquerville, is undergoing extensive surgeries and treatment after the helicopter he was piloting crashed April 8 in Pennsylvania. The two others in the helicopter were killed in the crash.
Olsen has injuries in his spine, leg, arm and shoulder; he also still has several open wounds, Olsen’s aunt Sue Reynolds said. He has undergone surgeries to insert a steel plate in his arm, a rod in his leg, another plate in his spine to fuse together vertebrae, and will soon have a skin graft to close wounds on his leg, Reynolds said.
Olsen is still in a lot of pain, but he’s looking forward to being transported to Salt Lake City within the upcoming weeks to be closer to his family, Reynolds said.
“He was able to see his mom, dad, wife and baby,” Reynolds said. “The other two girls are really excited to see their dad but it’ll be a little bit before they can.”
Doug Colafella, a spokesman for FirstEnergy, said Olsen was working for a company called High Line Helicopters to help string power lines for a new transmission project in Pennsylvania when the crash occurred. The two others killed in the crash, which occurred about 150 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, were contractors of electric company J.W. Didado Electric.
“I’m sure (Olsen) is going to have the survivor’s guilt, which will happen in that kind of situation,” Reynolds said. “There’s going to be a lot of different emotions and trauma, but he’s in good hands right now at the hospital.”
When Reynolds heard the news about the crash, she said she was in shock because of Olsen’s long history flying helicopters. He even lived in Hawaii for two years with his family giving helicopter tours, Reynolds said.
“That’s what he loved,” Reynolds said.
Olsen’s family has been grateful for the “awesome” support pouring out of the community, Reynolds said. People around the Toquerville, Hurricane and La Verkin areas and from across Utah have reached out to the family to donate money and help the family. One man, Joey Campbell, has even taken it upon himself to do free yard work for the Olsen family for as long as is needed, Reynolds said.
“It’s a small community in Toquerville, so it’s really hit home for a lot of us,” Reynolds said. “Pretty much everybody has (shown support).”
A GoFundMe page that was up to help with Olsen’s medical costs and transportation costs to Salt Lake City has also already raised over $9,000 out of the initial $10,000 goal.
“That’s just a start,” Reynolds said. “We’ve done other little fundraisers here and there. … I’ve had one person even hand me an $1,000 check that went directly to him.”
All the money donated will go toward travel expenses or medical bills, Reynolds said. The cost of all the treatment Olsen is expected to undergo may reach the millions of dollars, Reynolds said.
“Just keep thinking about him,” Reynolds said. “He still has a long way to go, but he’s a fighter.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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