Disney president dies in helicopter crash

Published April 4, 1994|Updated Oct. 6, 2005

One of the top-ranking officials of the Walt Disney Co. was among three people killed Sunday when a helicopter crashed into a mountainside in northeastern Nevada, authorities said.

Frank Wells, who had been president and chief operating officer for Disney since 1984, was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other people who also were killed were not immediately identified. Two others were taken to Elko General Hospital, where they were listed in critical condition.

Elko County Sheriff Neil Harris said the helicopter was returning to Lamoille from an outing in Nevada's Ruby Mountains when it experienced mechanical problems and hit a slope about 7,500 feet.

Wells was one of three skiers who arranged for the flight through Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski, based in Lamoille.

A surprise storm dumped about 4 inches of snow in the Rubies on Sunday, but it wasn't snowing when the helicopter crashed, and weather didn't appear to be a factor in the crash, Harris said.

Wells came to Lamoille with his son for an Easter ski vacation, said a representative of Ruby Mountain Heli-Ski. Wells' son was not aboard the helicopter when it crashed about 4:30 p.m. about 300 miles east of Reno.

Heli-skiers take helicopters to remote back-country areas that are otherwise inaccessible.

Disney has prospered under the stewardship of Wells and Chief Executive Officer Michael Eisner, with the company's market value jumping from $2-billion to $22-billion from 1989 to 1992.

Wells, 62, helped generate controversy in 1992 when he and Eisner exercised stock options worth a combined $257.2-million before taxes. Analysts who follow Disney's stocks defended the move.