On February 24, 1999, about 1730 Alaska standard time, a high skid equipped Bell 206L-1 helicopter, N785SR, sustained substantial damage during landing, about 4 miles south of Barrow, Alaska. The helicopter was being operated as a public use, visual flight rules (VFR) local area search and rescue flight under Title 14, CFR Part 91, when the accident occurred. The helicopter was registered to the North Slope Borough, and was operated by the North Slope Borough Search and Rescue of Barrow. The airline transport pilot and the two passengers aboard received minor injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and VFR company flight following procedures were in effect.

In his written statement to the National Transportation Safety Board, the pilot reported that the helicopter was being utilized to search for a missing person. He said that shortly after initiating the search, he was able to locate the missing person on a frozen lake. He indicated that as he approached the lake for landing, he became disoriented due to whiteout conditions. The helicopter struck the frozen lake, and rolled onto its right side.

The helicopter sustained substantial damage to the fuselage, tail boom, and drive train components.

The closest official weather observation station is Barrow, located about 4 nautical miles north of the accident site. On February 24, at 1753, an Aviation Routine Weather Report (METAR) was reporting in part: wind, 070 degrees at 13 knots; visibility, 3 miles with light snow; clouds, 2,400 feet scattered, 3,800 feet broken, 10,000 feet overcast; temperature, minus 7 degrees F; dew point, minus 13 degrees F; altimeter, 29.81 inHg.

The pilot reported that there were no preaccident mechanical anomalies with the helicopter.

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