Disney Co. president dies in helicopter crash


Frank G. Wells, the president and chief operating officer of the Walt Disney Co. and a key part of one of the biggest turnarounds in American corporate history, was killed in a helicopter crash yesterday during a skiing expedition in the rugged Ruby Mountains in northeast Nevada.

Mr. Wells and four others were aboard the helicopter when it went down in a remote mountainside location known to locals as Thorpe Creek Canyon, about 5 miles south of Lamoille, said members of a search party. A radio dispatcher had reportedly received a call about engine trouble before the copter crashed.

Two others, including pilot Dave Walton and a woman identified as Beverly Johnson, also died in the crash. Ms. Johnson's husband, Mike Hoover, and their ski guide were taken to a hospital, said Elko County Sheriff Neil Harris. Their conditions were not known.

The group had been heli-skiing in mountains where expert skiers travel for powdery slopes untouched by other skiers, officials said. Mr. Wells, 62, was an accomplished mountain climber who climbed the highest peak on every continent, and had reached the summit of each one, except Mount Everest.

Mr. Wells had gone to Lamoille with his son Kevin for an Easter ski vacation, said a representative of the heli-ski company, but his son was not aboard the copter when it crashed.

Actor-director Clint Eastwood, a friend of Mr. Wells, was on the weekend trip as well, but he had departed earlier, Mr. Eastwood's agent said.

The death of Mr. Wells was likely to send shock waves through an industry where management stability is rare. Mr. Wells and Chairman Michael D. Eisner had become the model of such stability in the 10 years since they took over Disney.

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