Wife killed, husband injured in copter crash near Meeker

— A Centennial aviation executive was injured and his wife was killed this afternoon when their helicopter clipped a power line north of Meeker.

Rich Westra, president of Aviation Technology Services and a former pilot for KMGH TV station in Denver, was rushed to a hospital in Grand Junction after the crash that killed his wife, Kelly, at about 3:20 p.m.

They were using the company's technology to survey pipelines for leaks, said ATS director of maintenance Mike Reinhart.

Kelly Westra was 46 years old and was a technician for the company, which provides charter helicopter service and aerial pipeline support for oil and gas lines.

"She was a great lady," Reinhart said. "She was very kind and hardworking, and she'll be greatly missed."

Channel 7, which first reported the crash, said oil field workers reported the helicopter had gone down on a ranch along Wilson Creek in Rio Blanco County.

Rich Westra worked for the station for more than 20 years until about two years ago.

According to his bio on Channel 7's website, he learned to fly in college, then received a pilot's license to work for a small helicopter company. He enlisted in the Army and became an copter pilot. He has worked as an instructor who has flown most makes of helicopters.

"I can also fly airplanes, but helicopters are my expertise," he stated in the biography.

The crash was not his first. In May 2003 he was aboard a Channel 7 helicopter than crashed on ranch land in east Aurora during a practice emergency maneuver that simulates a stalled engine.

He was not the pilot at the time and was not seriously injured in the hard landing and rolled on its side, though the pilot of the crash did receive some injuries, according to news reports at the time.

ATS, based at Centennial Airport, flies sophisticated Bell helicopters.

"Our expert pilots have impeccable safety records, and exceed industry insurance coverage," according to the company website.

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