Former Rio Dell Man Dies When Safety Harness Failed While Working From a Helicopter

A former Fortuna High School student and resident of Rio Dell, Travis Chiokai, died November 7 in a tragic accident while working on power lines. According to the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana,

[On November 7,] at approximately 9:30 a.m. the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to the area of N. Claiborne Street and W. Houston River Road in Sulphur in reference to two men who had fallen from a helicopter. When deputies arrived they discovered two men, both in their 20’s and both from California, deceased. During further investigation it was learned the two men were working on the electrical lines in the area from a helicopter. It appears their safety harness was rubbing against the power lines, causing it to snap and causing them to fall about 100 feet from the helicopter. Both men were pronounced dead by medical personnel at the scene.

Foul play is not suspected, the deaths appear to be accidental….

UPDATE: The two men have been identified as Nicholas Gamalski, 27, and Travis Chiokai, 26, both from California.



  • What a tragic accident, condolences to the family’s Rest In Peace

  • A horrible thing. How hard for their families. They have my sympathy for their great loss.

  • I knew a man who had been a high climber in the woods. He once fell about 80 feet and landed flat on is back on the pile of bark that accumulates at the base of a high pole. No broken bones although I was told his entire body was purple — one giant bruise. He told me he was always “lop sided” after this. I don`t know what he meant by this.

  • Is the pay worth the risk?

    Omg and no one noticed the line touching the safety? How . This is horrible..Sad for his family and friends and fellow workers.. someone wasn’t paying attention.

  • It’s 2017 and they are still dangling people from helicopters to do work? Horrible.

    • Right!! You would think they would have a safer way.

      • Sorry folks but your soft industrial-age, petro-chem fueled lifestyles require some of us proles to get our hands dirty and puts us at some risk.
        This is not to suggest that strict safety protocols are not part of these trades. To the contrary, the physical difficulty, the technical knowledge required, and the risk moderated by a disciplined adherence to safety are what attracts us working stiffs to tough jobs- high tension power, firefighting, blasting, and dozens of other trades.
        So- at the risk of striking a wrong tone that is anything but informative, i have to suggest you lack the basic understanding of what it takes to run this society.
        Cyber-virtual reality machines with pretty lights and colors just don’t cut it.
        Welcome to Earth!

  • I foresee a wrongful death suit in the company’s future!!! A damned shame that they can’t come up with better ways of doing things like this!!! As was commented on earlier it IS 2017!!! There should some BETTER way of getting it done than dangling a human from a Helo!!!

    • Honestly it usually is safer than being attached to the ground, unless you can find another way to hover 100ft in the air to work on hi tension lines. Yes I see a lawsuit coming too and rightfully so, they should have had a backup system, and a backup system for that.

  • Wait, I thought helicopters were safer for that kind of work? Cause they are not grounded.

  • PG&E lineman also use helicopters. That’s How all the poles and lines are being replaced after all the fires in the Santa Rosa area . It’s a terrible freak accident. I worry for my sons safety daily. Prayers to his loved ones and it’s hard breaking that his new baby due soon will never get to meet her daddy.. That’s so heartbreaking. RIP Travis . You’re a hard working and caring young man .

  • Just plain sad condolences to the family ,and friends.

  • Just The Facts Ma'am

    On average 13 people die daily (in the USA) from construction related accidents.

  • CONDOLENCES. two young men just getting started in life, this is so sad.

  • Marilynne Walpole

    People quit blaming & and looking for lawsuits. This thread appears to be intended for condolences. My husband is a troubleman & and has worked on power lines for 35+years. Yes there are numerous safety rules & and yes the workers are trained, unfortunately accidents can & and do happen😰 doesn’t always have to be a bad guy/company. There are some things that are unforeseen with numerous variables.

  • Lineman is a way more dangerous job than a cop 5 times more dangerous

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