helicopter photo

This cell phone photo provided to the Hungry Horse News appears to show a couple who flew into the Bob Marshall Wilderness and landed on the South Fork of the Flathead River bank to do some fishing.

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A Bozeman couple is being investigated by the Forest Service after landing their helicopter on a sand bar in the Bob Marshall Wilderness to fish earlier this month, as first reported by the Hungry Horse News.

The helicopter was reported to the forest service by two people who saw it while riding horses in the wilderness area. A cell phone photo taken by the reporting parties and published by Hungry Horse News shows two people, identified as Sara and Sam Schwerin, standing in front of a helicopter parked on sand in the South Fork of Flathead River.

Federal law prohibits landing a helicopter in a designated wilderness area. The National Park Service and Forest Service also request all aircraft stay at an altitude of at least 2,000 feet above any federal wilderness land.

In a statement sent to the Chronicle by a private public relations firm Friday, Sam and Sara Schwerin said they reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Association.

“We briefly stopped ... in a location we believed to be outside the wilderness boundary. We made a mistake understanding our surroundings and we sincerely apologize,” the statement said.

The two said they were on the way to Meadow Creek, an airstrip outside of the wilderness, to camp with their children.

Helicopters are identified by a number painted on the side, called an N-number. The N-number on the helicopter in the photograph run in the Hungry Horse News is owned by WOS Holdings IV in Belgrade, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

WOS Holdings IV lists Sara Schwerin as its principal owner.

Sara Schwerin is the president of the board of directors of Big Sky Youth Empowerment. The organization’s website says she worked in the banking industry for two decades before the family moved to Bozeman from New York City in 2015.

Sara Schwerin also served on the MSU Leadership Institute’s advisory board but left that board in April, according to MSU spokesperson Michael Becker.

According to the Hungry Horse News, the two men who came across the helicopter asked if it was the couple’s and why it was parked in the wilderness. Sam Schwerin said it was okay to park the helicopter where it was because it was below the high water line, according to the story.

Forest Service spokesperson Lauren Alley said the incident is under investigation and no new information is available.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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