NTSB releases preliminary report in Clay County helicopter crash

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 13, 2013 

  • Remembering the crew

    Air Evac Lifeteam, the company that owned the helicopter that crashed last Thursday, announced that it will hold a memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday for the Manchester Air Evac Lifeteam crew. The service will be at North Laurel High School Gymnasium, 1300 Hal Rogers Parkway, London.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Thursday on the medical helicopter crash that killed three people in Manchester June 6, but the board revealed no cause.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said in an interview Thursday that determining a probable cause of the crash could take 12 to 18 months.

According to flight-tracking software provided by the helicopter operator, the helicopter was approaching its destination when the crash occurred, the preliminary report said.

Pilot Eddy Sizemore, 61, a former Laurel County chief sheriff's deputy; flight paramedic Herman "Lee" Dobbs, 40, of London; and flight nurse Jesse Jones, 28, of Pine-ville, all died in the crash. No patients were on board.

The helicopter did not have a "black box," but it did have devices that record altitude and speed, an NTSB spokesman told the Herald-Leader last week.

The preliminary report said that at 11:15 p.m. June 6, the Bell 206 helicopter was destroyed when it crashed into an elementary school parking lot as it approached for landing near Manchester.

The helicopter was registered to and operated by Missouri-based Air Evac EMS Inc.

The flight originated from the St. Joseph Hospital London heliport at 10:59 p.m., the report said.

The helicopter was approaching the helicopter operator's private helipad when the accident occurred, the report said.

Recordings provided by the operator's operational control center, located in O'Fallon, Mo., revealed that the pilot reported arriving at the base at 11:12 p.m.

That transmission was acknowledged by the control center six seconds later.

At 11:15 p.m., an unidentified male voice was recorded. No other transmissions from the accident flight were captured, the report said.

The helicopter approached from the west, turned southeast and flew over the intended landing site about one mile. It turned north, then west and then southeast before crashing.

Several eyewitnesses reported that the weather was clear, and they said the helicopter was "spinning" before impact. One of those witnesses reported seeing the helicopter nose-up at about a 40-degree angle, and shortly after that, no engine sound was heard. Other witnesses, who reported dense fog in the area at the time, said they only saw the helicopter just before the impact and subsequent explosion, the report said.

The helicopter came to rest about 750 feet from the intended landing area. According to security camera recordings, the helicopter erupted into a fireball immediately on impact.

The helicopter and engine were retained for further examination, the report said.

The Federal Aviation Administration, an operating mode of the U.S. Department of Transportation, told the Herald-Leader it has increased surveillance of Air Evac EMS, the helicopter's operator. The FAA did not elaborate.

Air Evac EMS has had 16 accidents since 1998, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's searchable databases.

Those killed in the Manchester crash were the company's fourth team of three crew members to die since 2007.

Previous fatal Air Evac EMS helicopter crashes occurred in 2010 at Walnut Grove, Ark.; in 2008 at Greensburg, Ind.; and in 2007 at Cherokee, Ala. Three people died in each of those crashes.

In addition, there were injuries in six of the 16 reported crashes: Seven people were seriously injured and two others suffered minor injuries, according to the database.

No injuries were reported in the other seven accidents, which included one Cessna airplane, according to the database.


REMEMBERING THE CREW

Air Evac Lifeteam, the company that owned the helicopter that crashed last Thursday, announced that it will hold a memorial service at 10 a.m. Saturday for the Manchester Air Evac Lifeteam crew. The service will be at North Laurel High School Gymnasium, 1300 Hal Rogers Parkway, London.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears. Twitter: @vhspears.

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