Oregon native among those killed in Peru helicopter crash

The Associated Press /

PORTLAND — A 62-year-old Oregon native killed in a helicopter crash in a Peruvian jungle had married his second wife in that country, built a house of stone and planned to retire there, his brother says.

Darrel Wayne Birkes was born in Tigard and grew up in Beaverton, his older brother, Marvin Birkes, told The Oregonian.

Darrel Birkes worked nearly three decades for Columbia Helicopters, whose chopper crashed on Monday, killing all seven aboard. He was working as a load rigging manager for the company, based in Aurora.

“He didn’t have an enemy in the world,” Marvin Birkes said. “He’d give you the shirt off his back. Money wasn’t that important to him. If you needed it, he’d give it to you.”

He said his brother graduated from Sunset High School, was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as a generator repairman in South Korea.

After that, he was married for a decade, ran a landscaping business in San Diego and returned to Oregon, Marvin Birkes said. For years he worked for Columbia Helicopters on logging sites as a choker setter, attaching cables to logs for retrieval by helicopters.

“It was a dangerous job,” and he broke his jaw a few times as well as his nose, his brother said.

After that, he worked for Columbia in Papua New Guinea, and about 10 years ago went to Peru as a master rigging coordinator, figuring out the correct loads for helicopters carrying equipment and people to oil and gas production sites.

Marvin Birkes said his brother remarried there and lived in the house he built on the outskirts of Lima, where he had horses, goats, dogs and chickens.

Every summer, Darrel Birkes returned to Oregon for a month, staying with his brother and helping with construction projects. The brothers took time off to fish for salmon and sturgeon on the Columbia River.

“He loved the outdoors,” Marvin Birkes said. “He also loved his job. He loved working for Columbia.”

NTSB to aid Peru investigation

PORTLAND — A team of National Transportation Safety Board investigators has been sent to Peru to help determine the cause of a helicopter crash that killed all seven people on board, including five Americans.

The Boeing-Vertol 234 helicopter operated by Oregon-based Columbia Helicopters went down in the Peruvian jungle shortly after takeoff Monday. The aircraft was carrying an external cargo secured by cables and was under contract for petroleum exploration support.

NTSB spokeswoman Kelly Nantel says the three-member team was to arrive Wednesday evening. The NTSB investigators will be accompanied by representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Columbia Helicopters.

— The Associated Press

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