Instead, the pilot, who did not have an instrument rating for helicopters, elected to take off. The spotter said that they were almost immediately in the clouds with zero visibility and that it was very turbulent. The pilot initially headed northwest toward lower terrain, but after about a minute the radar track showed that he began to fly erratically in a northeasterly direction, crossing terrain that rose as high as 12,500 feet. Several minutes after taking off, the tail rotor struck the mountain. The pilot radioed the dispatcher, who was his wife, and told her that he had struck the mountainside and was going down. The helicopter hit terrain at 11,970 feet about one mile northeast of where they picked up the hiker and rolled almost 500 feet down a steep, rocky slope. The hiker was ejected from the helicopter and killed. The pilot was also ejected and died shortly after the crash. The spotter remained in the fuselage as it rolled down the hill and survived with serious injuries.