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Texans Rescued By Eskimo On Dog Sled After Helicopter Crash

May 24, 1985

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ Two Texans preparing to attempt the first trans-Atlantic roundtrip by helicopter say they crashed on a frozen inlet off the Canadian coast but were rescued by an Eskimo on a dog sled.

Pilots Billy Pugh, 59, and Dennis Cline, 29, both of Corpus Christi, Texas, suffered cuts and bruises and some frostbite in Thursday’s ordeal.

Their $3.5-million Bell Long Ranger helicopter was a total loss, they said.

″We’re disappointed, but we’re glad to be with you,″ Pugh said in a telephone interview Friday with the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

Temperatures were in the low 30s when the helicopter crashed late Thursday morning off the east coast of Newfoundland, while the two were making practice landings on the frozen inlet.

Pugh said he wrapped the injured Cline in rubber pontoons taken from the helicopter to keep Cline warm, then walked about six miles across the ice before he found Clemence Jararus, an Eskimo on a dog sled.

Jararus took Pugh to Hopedale, three or four miles away, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police returned to the crash site on snowmobiles to rescue Cline.

Hopedale is a remote coastal settlement of about 450 residents on the Labrador coast about 200 miles north of the U.S. air base on Newfoundland’s Goose Bay.

Cline suffered facial scratches and bruises, and back pain. Pugh received eight stitches to the lips and inner mouth, Pugh said.

Both were to be flown Friday to a hospital in St. John’s, about 600 miles to the south, for X-rays.

Pugh, a Corpus Christi safety equipment manufacturer, and Cline, a helicopter mechanic, had planned to reach France for the Paris Air Show by May 29, then return to the United States to complete the first trans-Atlantic, roundtrip helicopter flight.

They left Corpus Christi on May 15.

Their schedule called for stops in Canada, Greenland, Scotland’s Shetland Islands and the Scottish mainland before crossing the English Channel.

But the men were turned back by frozen rain Monday after venturing about 175 miles across the Atlantic toward Greenland from Hopedale.

Stalled by the weather, they were practicing ice landings - requiring controlled slides of the helicopter - when they struck a snowbank and overturned, Pugh said.

″We misjudged the ice and hit a little snowbank and went over on our side,″ he said. Pugh was wearing only rubbers and a survival suit when he took off across the four-foot-thick ice of The Black Heads, a group of jagged coastal sea inlets, said Mountie Cpl. Ed North.

″Pugh received minor frostbite to one of his feet,″ North said. ″I would say they were not dressed properly.″

After finding Jararus on the dog sled, Pugh rode on the sled to Hopedale.

Pugh said he gave the Eskimo, who spoke almost no English, $500 for his trouble.

″It was just a miracle that he came by,″ Pugh said.

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