AURORA, Ore. – A Beaverton, Ore. man was among the five Americans killed when a helicopter crashed in Peru on Monday.
Two Peruvian crew members were also killed in the crash.
63-year-old Darrel Birkes grew up in Beaverton, but moved to Peru about 15 years ago. His brother Marvin still lives in Oregon.
“He loved his job; that was his life,” Marvin Birkes said. “Really tragic, it really upset me because he was my best friend.”
Marvin said his brother lived all over the world working on helicopter crews.
“He lived in New Guinea for two years before the Peru deal,” Marvin said. “New Guinea then Australia, Canada, Alaska. He had just been all over the place.”
Despite the globetrotting, Darrel found his way back to Boring, Ore. to see his brother for a month each year.
“We’d split wood and cut wood and do everything,” Marvin said. “He didn’t want to sit around and sit still.”
Marvin also noted his brother’s generosity.
“He didn’t care what he had, he’d give it to you. I used to get mad at him because he’d give all of his stuff away all the time,” Marvin remembered. “He was just a very generous person.”
The helicopter that crashed was owned by Columbia Helicopters of Aurora, Ore, where Darrell had worked for decades.
Read more: The latest on the crash from the Associated Press in Peru
“This is a very sad day for Columbia Helicopters,” said company president Michael Fahey. “We may operate globally, but we are still very much a family. The loss of our employees hurts deeply, and I knew most of these men personally. Our employees are grieving, and we are praying for the family members of the friends we lost.”
Fahey said all seven people killed were Columbia employees:
- Dann Immel, Command Pilot (hometown: Gig Harbor, Wash.)
- Igor Castillo, Copilot (Peru)
- Edwin Cordova, Maintenance Crew Chief (Melbourne, Florida)
- Luis Ramos, Aircraft Mechanic (Peru)
- Jaime Pickett, Aircraft Mechanic (Clarksville, Tenn.)
- Darrel Birkes, Senior Load Manager (Peru, originally from Beaverton, Ore.)
- Leon Bradford, Load Manager (Santaquin, Utah)
Witnesses told reporters in Peru that the Boeing Model 234 Chinook helicopter lost control and started spewing smoke before crashing. It was under contract to help with petroleum exploration operations.
KATU looked into the helicopter’s safety record and did not find any black marks. Columbia Helicopters was founded in 1957 and quickly gained notoriety when one of its helicopter crews helped rescued more than a dozen sailors from a sinking ship near Coos Bay.