Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bell 206B JetRanger II, N16673: Accident occurred October 28, 2013 in Milo, Oregon

NTSB Identification: WPR14CA052 
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Monday, October 28, 2013 in Milo, OR
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/05/2014
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N16673
Injuries: 3 Serious.

NTSB investigators used data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator and did not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The pilot stated that the purpose of the flight was for the two passengers, who were both biologists, to conduct a low-level river/land survey. Prior to departure, the pilot discussed the route of flight with the passengers and they all reviewed the maps and sectionals for possible hazards with an emphasis on wire crossings. After departure, the pilot attempted to facilitate the biologists' view out the windows by maneuvering the helicopter in a crab angle with the flight path tracking down the riverbank and the nose pointing left. The pilot maintained an altitude just above tree-top level and about an hour into the flight the pilot observed the first high power line crossing. Approximately 20 minutes thereafter, one of the passengers called attention to another line crossing, which was equipped with marker balls.

The pilot stated that as they continued, the river divided into numerous channels and one of the passengers advised him which path to follow. After surveying one of the channels, he maneuvered the helicopter in a 90-degree turn to circle back and then it was decided they did not need to return to the channel's origin. The pilot then made a left turn to adjoin the river and immediately observed blue sparks and a wire contact on the upper windscreen bubble. The helicopter was substantially damaged after it descended and came to rest in 4.5 feet of water about 50 feet from the power line. 

The pilot reported no preimpact mechanical malfunctions or failures with the helicopter that would have precluded normal operation.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to see and avoid wires while maneuvering at a low-altitude, which resulted in the main rotor blades striking the wires.

A Rogue River pilot injured in a helicopter crash near Days Creek earlier this week has been downgraded from fair to serious condition.

Fred Wittlake, 55, suffered a broken arm and ribs after the helicopter he was flying hit power lines and crashed into the South Umpqua River Monday. He was airlifted to Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, where he was listed in fair condition Tuesday. But by Wednesday, a hospital spokesperson said his condition was listed as serious.

The crash also injured two Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists who were conducting fish surveys along the Umpqua. Holly Huchko, 34, remains in serious condition at Sacred Heart with a broken back, according to officials.

Biologist Eric Himmelreich, 35, was listed in good condition Wednesday morning at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The Bell 206B JetRanger crashed into the river at about 11:40 a.m. within feet of the Tiller Trail Highway in the 13000 block. The cause of the crash remains under investigation, but an accident notification posted Tuesday by the Federal Aviation Administration noted the helicopter struck power lines before it fell into the river.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Hollow said he had no new information Wednesday about the crash.

Huchko has been with ODFW for 10 years, and Himmelreich has worked for the agency for just more than a year. Both work out of the Roseburg office of the Umpqua Fish District.

The helicopter is registered to Robert Ferreira of Ashland, according to the FAA. Siskiyou Transportation and Timberland Helicopters also are listed as owners. Ferreira is president of T L Forest Products on Dead Indian Memorial Road, according to state business records.

A Bell JetRanger helicopter crashed shortly before noon Monday into the South Umpqua River in the 13000 block of Tiller Trail Highway.