Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bell 407, Med-Trans Corporation, N445MT: Accident occurred January 02, 2013 in Clear Lake, Iowa

NTSB Identification: CEN13FA122
14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 02, 2013 in Clear Lake, IA
Aircraft: Bell Helicopter 407, registration: N445MT
Injuries: 3 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On January 2, 2013, about 2057 central standard time, a Bell Helicopter model 407, N445MT, impacted terrain near Clear Lake, Iowa. The pilot and two medical crew members sustained fatal injuries. The helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter was registered to Suntrust Equipment Leasing & Finance Corporation and operated by Med-Trans Corporation under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 as a positioning flight. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight, which was operated on a company flight plan. A flight plan was not filed with the Federal Aviation Administration. The flight originated from the Mercy Medical Center, Mason City, Iowa, about 2049, with an intended destination of the Palo Alto County Hospital, (IA76), Emmetsburg, Iowa.

A witness located about 1 mile south of the accident site, reported observing the helicopter as it approached from the east. He noted that it appeared to slow and then turn to the north. When he looked again, the helicopter appeared to descend straight down. He subsequently went back into his house and called 911. He described the weather conditions as “misty,” with a light wind.

A second witness reported that he was working in his garage when he heard the helicopter. He stated that the sound of the helicopter changed as if it was turning, followed by what he described as a “thump” and then everything was quiet. He subsequently responded to the accident with the Ventura Fire Department. He reported that there was a coating of ice on his truck windshield that the wipers would not clear. He decided to drive another car to the fire station because it had been parked in the garage. While responding to the accident site with the fire department, as the fire truck he was on was waiting to cross Highway 18, they observed a Clear Lake police car, also responding to the accident, slide through the intersection. They informed dispatch to advise following units to expect slick road conditions. He noted that there was a haze in the air, which was evident when looking toward a street light; however, he did not recall any precipitation at the time.

A pilot located at the Mason City airport reported that he saw the helicopter fly overhead and estimated its altitude as 300 feet above ground level (agl). He was leaving the airport at that time and noted there was a glaze of ice on his car. He added that the roads were icy as he drove out of the airport and onto Highway 18. He commented that he had flown into Mason City about 1830 and encountered some light rime ice at that time.

Satellite tracking data depicted the helicopter becoming airborne at the medical center about 2049. According to the data, between 2050 and 2055, the helicopter proceeded westbound along Highway 18 about 1,800 feet mean sea level (msl). The final tracking data point was recorded about 2056 and was located approximately 1 mile north of Highway 18, along Balsam Avenue. The altitude associated with that data point was 2,648 feet msl. The accident site was located about one-quarter mile west of the final data point.

The helicopter impacted a harvested agricultural field. The debris path was about 100 feet long and oriented toward the west-southwest. The helicopter was fragmented, and the cockpit and cabin areas were compromised. The main wreckage consisted of the main rotor blades, transmission, engine, portions of the fuselage, and the tail boom. The tail rotor had separated from the tail boom and was located about 80 feet east-northeast of the main wreckage. The landing skids had separated from the fuselage. The left skid was located at the initial impact point; the right skid was located about 35 feet west of the main wreckage.

The pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with helicopter and single-engine airplane ratings. His airplane rating was limited to private pilot privileges. He was issued a second class airman medical certificate on April 17, 2012, with a limitation for corrective lenses. His most recent regulatory checkride was completed on September 29, 2012, about the time of his initial employment with the operator. At that time, he reported having accumulated a total flight time of 2,808 hours, with 2,720 hours in helicopters.

Weather conditions recorded at the Mason City Municipal Airport, located about 7 miles east of the accident site, at 2053, were: wind from 300 degrees at 8 knots; 8 miles visibility; broken clouds at 1,700 feet agl, overcast clouds at 3,300 feet agl, temperature -3 degrees Celsius, dew point -5 degrees Celsius, altimeter 30.05 inches of mercury. At 2117, the recorded conditions included broken clouds at 1,300 feet agl and overcast clouds at 1,800 feet agl.


MASON CITY — Relatives of Shelly Lair-Langenbau, a flight nurse killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 2, have filed a lawsuit in Cerro Gordo County District Court, claiming negligence on the part of the air transport company that owned the helicopter and its pilot.

The suit claims the pilot, Gene Grell, who was also killed in the crash took off in icing conditions that made the helicopter unsafe to fly.

Plaintiffs are the nurse’s husband, Worth County Sheriff Jay Langenbau; two minor children; and Gerald and Karen Lair, her parents.

The defendant is Med-Trans Corp., Lewisville, Texas, which operates the helicopter service.

The suit claims Lair-Langenbau, 44, of Hanlontown, was the flight nurse on a Bell 407 helicopter, owned by Med-Trans and piloted by Grell, that took off in icing conditions from Mercy Medical Center - North Iowa with an intended destination of Palo Alto County Hospital in Emmetsburg.

The helicopter crashed in a field shortly after takeoff, killing Lair-Langenbau, Grell, 53, of Texas and paramedic Russell Piehl, 48, of Forest City.

The suit claims Med-Trans knew that Bell 407 helicopters were not safe to operate in certain weather conditions, including icing.

It further claims Med-Trans had a “go at any cost” philosophy that placed corporate profit over safety.

Also, the suit says Med-Trans is liable for the actions of Grell who, the suit claims did not properly assess the weather before taking off; failed to abort the flight when he knew of the icing conditions; improperly flew the helicopter and failed to maintain control over it; and failed to obtain proper weather data prior to the flight.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for the alleged wrongful death of Lair-Langenbau; punitive damages sufficient to punish and deter Med-Trans from further wrong-doing; court costs of the plaintiffs; and any further relief the court deems appropriate.

Langenbau and the other plaintiffs are represented by Mason City attorney John P. Lander and attorneys Gary C. Robb and Anita Porte Robb of Kansas City, Mo.

They are requesting a jury trial.

Efforts to reach Med-Trans for comment were unsuccessful.

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