Wednesday, May 4, 2016

MD Helicopters 500E (369E), N629JK: Fatal accident occurred May 04, 2016 in Reedsville, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin


NTSB Identification: CEN16FA171
14 CFR Part 133: Rotorcraft Ext. Load
Accident occurred Wednesday, May 04, 2016 in Reedsville, WI
Aircraft: MCDONNELL DOUGLAS HELICOPTER 369E, registration: N629JK
Injuries: 1 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 May 4, 2016, about 1000 central daylight time, an MD Helicopters 369E helicopter, N629JK, impacted trees and terrain near Reedsville, Wisconsin. The commercial rated pilot was fatally injured and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The helicopter was registered to Padgett Ag Air LLC, Pawleys Island, South Carolina, and operated by Rotor Blade LLC, Georgetown, South Carolina, under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 133 as an external load operation. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed. The flight departed from the Manitowoc County Airport (MTW), Manitowoc, Wisconsin, about 0730. 

According to the operator, the helicopter was being used to transport personnel and equipment in support of power line maintenance. The helicopter arrived at a predetermined landing zone (LZ) about 0800 where 25 gallons of fuel were added. 

There were two witnesses were personnel atop the nearest powerline structure and another witness located in a vehicle about 170 yards to the north. They reported that the helicopter approached the powerline structure from the east and then made a right turn to point the nose of the helicopter into the wind. When the helicopter approached the powerline structure the witnesses noticed change in the helicopter's sound and then it made a sudden descent. The helicopter veered to the right and the main rotor blades appeared to decrease in speed. The helicopter impacted trees and terrain and came to rest on its right side. One witness climbed down from the structure, arrived at the main wreckage, and reported that the engine was still operating. In order to shut down the engine, he pulled the emergency fuel shutoff valve and then rendered assistance to the pilot. 

At 0956, the weather observation at MTW, located 13 nautical miles east-southeast, reported wind from 340° at 22 knots gusting to 32 knots, 10 statute miles visibility, overcast ceiling at 2,600 ft, temperature 46° F, dew point 36° F, and altimeter setting 29.77 inches of mercury. 

A Garmin 496 GPS was found in the wreckage and was sent to the NTSB Vehicle Recorders Laboratory for examination and download. 

The helicopter was retained for further examination.

Paul Ruppert
Sept. 12, 1954-May 4, 2016

MADISON, Wis. - Paul Ray Ruppert was born on Sept. 12, 1954, and grew up on his family's farm near Currie, the oldest of six children. He attended Immaculate Heart of Mary school in Currie for grades K-8 and Tracy High School in Tracy for grades 9-12. After graduating in 1972, he attended Mankato State University in Mankato, then served in the U.S. Army as a medic, stationed in Germany. Following his discharge, Paul returned to Currie to farm, and it was during that time he learned that helicopters were being used for chemical application to crops. His father helped him buy his first helicopter, and for 21 years Paul worked as a helicopter pilot in aerial application.

Never one to resist a new challenge, Paul transitioned to the power line construction industry, where helicopters were being used for completion of numerous tasks. He worked for 15 years in that industry - one in which he was well-known and respected, not only for his precision flying skills but also for his strong commitment to safety and his ability to successfully train power line helicopter pilots and linemen how to work safely as a team.

Paul had a tough exterior, befitting a man whose job required him to hold others' lives in his hands. But those who knew him best appreciated him for his kind heart, humility, sense of humor, and generosity toward friends and strangers alike. In addition to flying helicopters, he loved music, reading, art, motorcycling, hiking, bicycling, dining out, and exploring small towns. Additional interests included woodworking, photography, stained glass, cooking, gardening, and spending time with friends.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, Paul passed away as the result of a helicopter crash and will be sadly missed by all those who loved him and whose lives he touched.

He is survived by his beloved mother Dorothy Ruppert of Currie; his life partner Linda Linssen of Madison, Wis.; daughters Eryn Ruppert of Vista, Calif. and Anna Ruppert of Colorado Springs, Colo.; grandchildren Plato Ruppert of Vista, Calif., and Luna Barreras of Colorado Springs, Colo.; siblings Karl (Kim) Ruppert of Currie; Rebecca (Francis) Biesanz of Sleepy Eye; Matt (Tammy) of Mound; Ramona Ruppert (Rebecca) of Minneapolis; and Jody (Kent) Shaw of Colorado Springs, Colo.; dozens of nieces, nephews, and cousins; and his aviation family and friends from around the world.

Paul was preceded in death by his father, Raymond Ruppert, his lifelong hero and role model. At the time of his death, Paul lived in Madison, Wis., with Linda.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials in Paul's name to the charity of your choice or to one of the following:

American Diabetes Organization in honor of Paul's daughter Anna, who lives with Type 1 diabetes.

Hogs for Heroes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to healing the mental and physical wounds suffered by veterans during the course of active duty through the therapeutic benefits of owning and riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, which provides financial assistance to career musicians struggling to make ends meet while facing illness, disability, or age-related issues.


Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email,  and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

The pilot of the helicopter that crashed in Manitowoc County Wednesday is identified as 61-year-old Paul Ruppert of Madison.

Ruppert sustained trauma including his head, neck, chest and right leg as a result of the crash.

He was removed from the aircraft prior to the arrival of EMS and other rescue personnel by ground personnel and co-workers present when the aircraft crashed. They attempted CPR at the scene.

He was pronounced dead at the scene by Coroner Curtis Green at 11:40 a.m. Wednesday. All family has been notified. Funeral arrangements are being made.

Statement regarding helicopter crash in Manitowoc County, Wis.

DEPERE, Wis. –  American Transmission Co. has received word of a helicopter crash near the intersection of Marquette Road and Sandy Road near Reedsville, Wis. The helicopter was involved in stringing wire along an ATC transmission line between the Point Beach Nuclear Plant and the Forest Junction Substation.

The helicopter is owned by Rotor Blade,LLC, which is a subcontractor for Henkels & McCoy. Rotor Blade is a South Carolina-based company that provides helicopter services to the utilities industry.

An internal team has been assembled to respond to the emergency at the scene and to investigate the accident.


A pilot helping with the installation of transmission lines was killed when the helicopter crashed in Manitowoc County Wednesday morning. Tonight, investigators are trying to learn why the helicopter went down.

At about 10 a.m., the chopper went down in a “remote and swampy area” at 19420 Marquette Road in Maple Grove, near Reedsville, the sheriff’s office said.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the MD 500E (369E) helicopter “crashed under unknown circumstances.” It came to rest on its side in trees just feet from the tower the crew was working on.

The pilot was the only person on-board. So far the person hasn’t been publicly identified.

Video provided by local viewer Jesse Jossart taken shortly before the crash shows the helicopter hovering above a crew installing a communication line between the Point Beach nuclear plant and Forest Junction substation. The work was part of a project by the American Transmission Company. The video does not show the crash.

Neighbors say they’ve been watching this pilot and his crew for the past couple weeks and admiring the pilot’s skill as crews worked to install wires on transmission towers.

Steve Sorenson, who lives down the road, told us, “The helicopter pilot was able to hover in one spot and be able to drive guys in there and hold that helicopter steady, and then I saw him trimming the lines back and forth with a big pole trimmer, and he was able to go on both sides of that, and he was a very skilled pilot in my mind.”

“I’ve been watching the guy for a month working around here, and I was pretty impressed with his skills. It’s pretty sad news.”

Sorenson said the last time he saw the helicopter it had dropped off the crew and was hovering over a neighbor’s shed. He didn’t see it crash. “The next thing I know, the ambulances were showing up.”

American Transmission Company released a statement to Action 2 News, saying the helicopter is owned by Rotor Blade, a South Carolina-based company. Rotor Blade, a subcontractor for Henkels & McCoy, provides services to utilities.

“An internal team has been assembled to respond to the emergency at the scene and to investigate the accident,” reads a statement from ATC.

The FAA is responding to the scene to begin an investigation, which will be led by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB says an investigator is en route from Denver and will be here by Thursday morning to start their investigation.

ATC says it’s assisting both agencies during this investigation.

“It’s a tragedy,” ATC spokesperson Jackie Olson said. “We take pride in our safety record at American Transmission Company. Even our office meetings begin with a safety briefing, so it’s a very high priority, and it’s a very sad day when something like this happens.”

Officials say the NTSB’s report will be made public within 10 days.

The Manitowoc County coroner was on the scene.

The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office received help at the scene from Reedsville Fire Department and First Responders, Collins Fire Department, Kellnersville Fire Department, Wayside Fire Department, and Valders Ambulance.

Original article can be found here:

Authorities report that a pilot was killed when a helicopter owned by a Georgetown County-based business crashed while performing maintenance work in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

A release from the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office indicates the helicopter crashed in an area near 19420 Marquette Road in the town of Maple Grove at about 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 4.

In the release, Sheriff Robert C. Hermann said deputies were dispatched at 10:02 a.m. after receiving a call reporting the crash. When deputies arrived, Hermann said, they saw the crash occurred in a “remote and swampy area” near the aforementioned residence.

“They were stringing power lines from our nuclear plant ... over to Forest Junction,” Hermann said, in an interview with the Georgetown Times staff. “The helicopter company was subcontracted to assist.”

Hermann added there was no indication as to what may have caused the fatal crash.

“That’s still under investigation,” he said. “There were some witnesses, and it doesn’t look like he hit anything. But I can’t say for sure what it was.”

Representatives with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Travel Safety Board were en route to Manitowoc County to investigate the crash site. Although his department handled the initial investigation, Hermann said he thought it would continue through NTSB.

The pilot was identified only as a man. Hermann said his identity would be withheld pending notification of his next-of-kin.

Times staff left a message with Rotor Blade staff asking for a statement on Wednesday’s crash. That message was not immediately returned.

Original article can be found here:

MAPLE GROVE - A pilot is dead after the helicopter he was operating crashed in rural Manitowoc County just after 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The crash occurred in a swampy area at 19420 Marquette Road in the town of Maple Grove, according to the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office. The pilot's identity has not been released, but he was the only occupant of the MD 369E helicopter.

The cause of the crash has not been determined. The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.

According to the American Transmission Co., the pilot was stringing wire along an ATC transmission line between the Point Beach Nuclear Plant and the Forest Junction Substation.

The helicopter is owned by Rotor Blade LLC, which is a subcontractor for Henkels & McCoy. Rotor Blade is a South Carolina-based company that provides helicopter services to the utility industry.

The Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office was assisted by Reedsville Fire Department and First Responders, Collins Fire Department, Kellnersville Fire Department, Wayside Fire Department and the Valders Ambulance. Manitowoc County Coroner Curt Green was also on scene assisting.

Initial scanner reports also indicated power lines were down and fuel was leaking from the helicopter.

Original article can be found here:

MANITOWOC COUNTY (WLUK) -- The pilot has been killed in a helicopter crash near Reedsville, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office says the crash happened just after 10 a.m. in a swampy area near 19420 Marquette Rd. in the Town of Maple Grove. The pilot was the only person in the helicopter.

Citing local law enforcement, the FAA says the crash is a fatality.

American Transmission Company says the helicopter was being used to help string wire along an ATC electrical transmission line between the Point Beach nuclear plant and the Forest Junction Substation.

ATC says the helicopter is owned by South Carolina-based Rotor Blade, LLC, which is working as a subcontractor for Henkels & McCoy. According to the FAA, the helicopter was an MD Helicopters model 369E. It's unknown what led to the crash.

The FAA says the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation, and any further information will come from the NTSB.

Original article can be found here:


A pilot was killed after crashing his helicopter north of Reedsville in Manitowoc County. The pilot was helping install transmission lines for  American Transmission Co. 

Neighbors reported seeing the helicopter earlier in the day and it's unclear what made the chopper crash "My heart goes out the families that were involved in this. what a terrible loss," said Steve Sorenson.

The NTSB is now leading an investigation into what happened. The helicopter is owned by the South Carolina company. But was contracted to help American Transmission Co. "We pride ourselves on our safety record at American Transmission Co. even our corporate office meetings begin with safety briefings so it's a tragic day," said Jackie Olson with American Transmission Co.

The pilots identity has not been released.

Original article can be found here:

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