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American Bank CEO, former Big Sky resident dies in helicopter crash

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By Joseph T. O’Connor EBS Managing Editor

CARLSBAD, Calif. – A former Big Sky resident and onetime honorary director of the Yellowstone Club died in a Nov. 18 helicopter crash in Southern California.

Bruce A. Erickson, 65, who was living in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., was practicing landings at McCellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, Calif., when the rotor hit the ground, according to the San Diego County medical examiner.

The helicopter spun in circles uncontrollably before it exploded, killing its pilot Erickson and passenger, Cardiff-By-The-Sea resident Wayne Lewis, 60.

The crash is currently under investigation by the National Safety Transportation Board.

Erickson was the owner and CEO of five Montana-based American Bank branches, with locations in Big Sky, Bozeman, Big Timber, Whitefish and Livingston.

“Bruce had a heart of gold with boundless energy, and his devotion toward community banking was unsurmountable (sic),” American Bank representatives wrote in a Nov. 19 press release. “Bruce’s zest for life elevated all those who he came in contact with. He was passionate about giving with a special concern for children and the local communities the bank serves.”

Erickson was heavily involved in Big Sky Resort’s ski team, and both his children, Taylor and Tyler, came up through the Big Sky system. But his character spoke for itself, according to longtime Big Sky resident J.C. Knaub.

“Bruce was very benevolent; gregarious with a great sense of humor,” said Knaub, who also owns Big Sky-based Andesite Construction.

Former friend Lindie Gibson writes the online column, “Classmates Chatter,” and said she learned of Erickson’s death when a friend sent her an article reporting the death.

“He was very polite and sort of passive,” recalled Gibson, who grew up near Erickson in Livingston. “I had a crush on him when he was in eighth grade running for junior high mayor.”

Erickson was preceded in death by his first wife and high school sweetheart, Carolyn, along with his parents, Claude and Bernice Erickson.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Taylor and Tyler Erickson as Bruce Erickson’s sons. Tyler is Bruce’s son. Taylor is Bruce’s daughter.

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