Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Troopers won't revisit heli-ski probe


Alaska State Troopers will not reopen an investigation into the heli-ski accident that killed two people in Haines last spring, Lt. Rodney Dial said this week.

Natalia and Alex Dodov filed an employee conduct complaint in mid-November against Trooper Josh Bentz, who conducted the investigation into the deaths of Alaska Heliskiing client Nikolay Dodov and guide Rob Liberman. The Dodovs voiced criticism of perceived flaws in Bentz’s investigation and requested troopers reopen the case.

Dial spoke to the Dodovs Monday and explained that while some of their concerns – such as Liberman’s autopsy indicating recent marijuana use – might be legitimately raised in civil court, the company could not be held responsible criminally.

If Liberman survived, he could potentially be held criminally liable, but the company is not criminally liable by extension, Dial said. “The death investigation looked into whether there was criminal conduct involved in the death of the two individuals and the short answer is there wasn’t.”

The Dodovs also claimed Alaska Heliskiing did not have the proper permits to be on the land where the accident happened. Again, Dial said, this would be a civil issue; to be a criminal issue, the presence or absence of permits would have to have directly affected the outcome of the accident.

“It’s not germane to the death investigation itself. I would have to be able to show a linking between having the right permit or not having the right permit and whether it would have affected the outcome here,” Dial said.

The Dodovs also asked why the autopsy report was not included in the report, and why all eyewitness statements were not included. Dial said the autopsy report is included in the official report, but it was not included in the report provided to the Dodovs because troopers do not release medical records. Dial said the Dodovs’ lawyer could try to subpoena the autopsy results.

Dial also said Bentz did interview all eyewitnesses, a fact stated in the report. Bentz condensed three eyewitness statements into one, though, because all three made very similar reports, Dial said.

The Dodovs said they are working with their lawyer in California and intend to file a wrongful death suit against Alaska Heliskiing.

“We didn’t want to file a lawsuit. We just wanted the truth, but then we started to be showered with lies,” Natalia Dodov said.

Alex Dodov said he believes there is a two-year statute of limitations in filing a civil suit.

Dial said he added some information to the report at the request of the Dodovs, including an accident report recently provided to the Colorado Avalanche Center by Alaska Heliskiing. The Dodovs claim the report is incomplete and falsified.

Dial said he does not foresee the case being reopened, although he would accept any additional information the Dodovs might want to provide.

“At this point, unless we receive new evidence, the case is closed. And quite honestly, I just don’t see that happening at this point. We would have to show there was intent on behalf of this company to put people in a position that would result in serious injury or death. And we just can’t make that connection,” Dial said.