Friday, July 29, 2016

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II, Cal-Ore Life Flight, N661TC: Fatal accident occurred July 29, 2016 in McKinleyville, Humboldt County, California

National Transportation Safety Board - Aviation Accident Preliminary Report: http://app.ntsb.gov/pdf

http://registry.faa.gov/N661TC

FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Oakland FSDO-27


NTSB Identification: WPR16FA153
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, July 29, 2016 in McKinleyville, CA
Aircraft: PIPER PA-31T, registration: N661TC
Injuries: 4 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 July 29, 2016, about 0105 Pacific daylight time, a twin-engine, turbine-powered, Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II airplane, N661TC, reported smoke in the cockpit and subsequently sustained an in-flight breakup and collision with tree-covered terrain near Arcata/Eureka Airport, McKinleyville, California. The accident airplane was being operated by Cal-Ore Life Flight as an instrument flight rules (IFR) air transport medical flight under the provisions of Title 14, CFR Part 135. The airline transport pilot, two medical personnel, and one patient were fatally injured; the airplane sustained substantial damage. Dark night, instrument meteorological conditions prevailed. The flight departed Crescent City, California, at 0045, destined for Oakland International Airport, Oakland, California

A preliminary review of archived radar and voice communication data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that at 0058:12, as the airplane reached an altitude of about 15,000 feet msl, the accident pilot contacted Seattle air route traffic control center (ARTCC) and stated that he was going to turn back to Crescent City due to a smell of smoke in the cockpit. 

At 0058:26, the ARTCC specialist on duty cleared the accident airplane direct to the Crescent City Airport, issued him a descent clearance to 9,000 feet, and told him to let her know if he needed anything else.

At 0058:41, the accident pilot said "okay," and he stated that it looked like he was going to lose some power shortly, and said he would keep her posted as long as he could.

At 0058:52, the ARTCC specialist issued the Crescent City altimeter of 29.98, and then requested the total number of occupants on board, and how much fuel was remaining.

At 0059:07, the accident pilot stated that he had smoke in the cockpit, declared an emergency, said he was depressurizing and was heading back to Crescent City.

At 0059:21, the accident pilot asked the ARTCC specialist to call the fire department to have them standing by upon arrival. 

At 0059:25, the ARTCC specialist then acknowledged that crash rescue would be standing by at the Crescent City Airport, and she again asked how many people were on board.

At 0059:27, the accident pilot stated that he had three on board. There were no further communications received from the accident airplane despite multiple attempts by the ARTCC specialist on duty. 

During a telephone conversation with an National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, a witness located near Cookson Camp, Arcata, California, reported that in the early morning hours of July 29, she heard an airplane circling overhead before it eventually flew westward, which was followed by about 15 seconds of silence. While looking out the window of her tent, she saw a large dome shaped flash to the west, followed by another flash and a loud rumble. 

The NTSB IIC, along with another NTSB investigator, two Federal Aviation Administration safety inspectors from the Oakland Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), two representatives from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, representatives from Cal-Ore Life Flight, and an Piper Aircraft air safety investigator reached the accident site on the afternoon of July 30. The accident site was located in an area of brush and heavily forested terrain. Large portions of the burned and fragmented airplane were scattered along a debris path oriented along a magnetic heading of 354 degrees, which measured about 2,400 feet in length. The fuselage, inboard and outboard sections of the wings, vertical tail, and portions of one horizontal stabilizer, were located in separate locations and exhibited minimal impact damage. Both inboard sections of the wings exhibited postcrash fire damage.

The fuselage and empennage came to rest on its left side and facing the direction of travel. The instrument panel and cockpit exhibited extensive impact damage. The cabin area of the fuselage was largely intact. Evidence of thermal damage was present in the forward section of the fuselage. A section of the forward fuselage, wiring, and associated components were removed and sent to the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C., for further examination. 

Both engines separated from their respective engine firewalls and sustained impact damage, however; neither engine exhibited any sign of thermal damage. 

Control continuity could not be established due to numerous fractures in the system, missing cabling and flight control surfaces; however, all the fractures that were identified exhibited features consistent with tension overload. 

The closest weather reporting facility is Arcata/Eureka Airport (KACV), McKinleyville, located approximately 6 miles southwest of the accident site. At 0107, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at KACV, reported wind 180 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 1/2 statute miles, mist; runway 32 visual range 4,500 feet variable to greater than 6,000 feet, overcast clouds 200 feet; temperature 55 degrees F; dew point 54 degrees F; altimeter 29.85 inHg.

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


CRANNELL (Humboldt County) -- The names of four people killed when a medical transport plane en route to Oakland crashed last week were released by authorities Monday.

All were from Crescent City, where the plane took off from early July 29.

Larry Mills, 54, the pilot of the twin-engine Piper PA31 Cheyenne, had 20 years of flying experience and was a volunteer first responder for 12 years.

Flight nurse Deborah Koon, 49, a native of New Zealand, spent 25 years as a critical care nurse.

Certified Flight Paramedic Michelle Tarwater, 30, got her certification more than five years ago.

The patient they were transporting was identified as April Rodriquez, 35. Sutter Health spokeswoman Nancy Turner said Monday that Rodriquez being transferred from Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City to California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. Under federal law she could not discuss Rodriquez's medical condition.

REACH Air Medical Services, the parent company behind the Cal-Ore Life Flight plane that crashed, said memorial services are being planned for those killed.

Don Wharton, REACH Director of Business Development, said everyone who knew those on board was still in shock and mourning. He said crews for medical transport companies "are heroes."

Company employees are considered like family, added Wharton, and to lose them in "such horrible circumstances is shocking to say the least."

The plane took off from Crescent City about 12:29 a.m. July 29. About a half-hour later, Mills radioed there was smoke in the cockpit and he was going to try to return to Crescent City. But officials soon lost radar contact.

Humboldt County sheriff's department crews found the plane wreckage and bodies about 10 a.m. Friday on private timber company land that was densely forested.

The National Transportation Safety Board is heading the investigation into the cause of the crash. A preliminary report is expected within the next two weeks.


Source:   http://www.mercurynews.com





UPDATE, 9:34 p.m.: From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On 07/29/2016 at about 2030 hours, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division completed recovery of the victims from this accident. 

Tragically, four fatalities were confirmed. All four subjects, three females and one male, were recovered from inside the wreckage of the aircraft.

The ages and identities of the victims are being withheld at this time pending identification and notification of next of kin.

UPDATE, 7:15 p.m.: The Associated Press reports that all bodies have been recovered.

UPDATE, 12:50 p.m.: From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

The National Transportation Safety Board will arrive tomorrow around 1100 hours [11 a.m.]. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has secured the scene.

There is a quarter-mile debris field for the crash site. Personnel have confirmed plane went down into timber.

Sheriff’s Office is in communication with REACH Air Medical Services with information for the victim’s family. Personnel have confirmed four people were on the plane, and as noted earlier confirmed two fatalities.

UPDATE, 12:29 p.m.: Sheriff’s Office employees have responded to the scene of the crash along with personnel from the California Highway Patrol and employees of Green Diamond Resource Company, which owns the land where the plane went down.

Don Wharton, the director of business relations with Cal-Ore Life Flight’s partner organization REACH Air Medical Services, said he doesn’t yet know if all four passengers aboard the plane were killed. He said he’s remaining hopeful.

“This obviously is going to be a very difficult time for us,” Wharton said.

UPDATE, 11:09 a.m.: The crash has caused at least two small vegetation fires.  just called in additional resources to help handle one of them.

UPDATE, 10:59 a.m.: The Office of the County Administrator says that at least two people are confirmed to have died in this crash.

UPDATE, 10:32 a.m.: From Scanner Traffic Indicates’ “Tristan,” who is posting updates over there:

A CHP helicopter has confirmed that the wreckage is from the missing plane. The FAA has notified the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board].

UPDATE: This was a Cal-Ore Life Flight plane. From the company’s website this morning:

REACH Air Medical Services confirms there was an incident involving a Cal-Ore Life Flight aircraft out of our Crescent City, CA base. The plane, a Piper Cheyenne II, departed Crescent City Airport for Oakland International Airport. At approximately 1:05 AM PST on 07/29/16, we lost communication with the aircraft. The manifest confirms four persons on board: the pilot, a flight nurse, a transport medic, and a patient. At this time, we cannot provide you with additional details or the identity of people aboard the plane.

From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

This is all of the preliminary information we have on a missing plane in the Arcata area:

The pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31 declared an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. Friday.
The plane was flying from Crescent City to Oakland.
The pilot indicated he was going to return to Crescent City.
Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport.
We believe there were three people on board.
The Humboldt County Sheriff is searching for the aircraft.
The tail number is N661TC.

The Federal Aviation Administration database lists the plane as being registered to Blue Goose Aviation of Roseburg, Oregon.


Source:   https://lostcoastoutpost.com


















3rd UPDATE:

A statement on the Cal-Ore Life Flight website states the company has been informed there were no survivors on the medical plane carrying four, including a patient, that crashed on timber land near McKinleyville on Friday.

“This is one of the saddest moments in our history. We have been told there were no survivors. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the patient and our crewmembers,” a posting on the company website states. “Until we have positive confirmation from the local authorities, we cannot release the identification of those on board. We have critical incident stress management (CISM) teams in the area and we are doing all we can to help those involved. We will provide more information as soon as all family notifications have been made.”

2nd UPDATE:

The National Transportation Safety Board will arrive on scene at 11 a.m. tomorrow to investigate the plane crash north of McKinleyville that killed at least two people early this morning, the county of Humboldt announced in a press release.

The scene has been secured by the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, the release states, and efforts continue to find the two unaccounted for passengers on the Cal-Ore Life Flight that went down after departing from Crescent City at about 12:30 a.m.

1st UPDATE: (posted 11 a.m.)
Rescue crews have located wreckage believed to be that of a missing Cal-Ore Life Flight that departed Crescent City early this morning bound for Oakland but went missing somewhere near Arcata, and two fatalities have been confirmed.

Scanner traffic indicates the wreckage was found in two debris fields on Green Diamond property north of McKinleyville, and that crews located two possibly deceased people. According to a statement released by Cal-Ore Life Flight this morning, the flight departed from Crescent City shortly before 12:30 a.m. carrying four people — a pilot, a transport medic, a flight nurse and a patient.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Lt. Wayne Hanson said this morning that rescue crews set out early this morning looking for the plane. They gathered at the coordinates were it was last captured on radar, and fanned out from there on foot and all-terrain vehicles.

The county of Humboldt just issued a press release confirming that crews have located the wreckage site, and that two fatalities have been confirmed at this time. 

PREVIOUSLY (posted at 8:33 a.m.)
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a missing airplane that was believed to be carrying three people from Crescent City to Oakland early this morning before the pilot declared an emergency and the plane disappeared from local radar.

According to a brief press release, the twin engine Piper PA31 was in the Arcata area when the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. today and reported he was returning to Crescent City. “Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport,” the press release states.

The sheriff’s office has launched a search for the plane, which carries the tail number N661TC.

The following was sent from the sheriff's office this morning:

This is all of the preliminary information we have on a missing plane in the Arcata area:

The pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31 declared an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. Friday.

The plane was flying from Crescent City to Oakland.

The pilot indicated he was going to return to Crescent City.

Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport.

We believe there were three people on board.

The Humboldt County Sheriff is searching for the aircraft.

The tail number is N661TC.


Source: http://www.northcoastjournal.com




At approximately 1 a.m. today, the pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31  radioed that he had smoke in the cockpit of his plane. The aircraft, tail number N661TC, which had been scheduled to fly from Crescent City to Oakland has not been heard of since. Three people are believed to have been on board.

Radar contact was lost with the plane about five miles northeast of the Arcata Airport, according to information from Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Hanson said, the pilot had said he was going to return to Crescent City. 

The Sheriff’s Office is searching for the plane, said Hanson. Because of the fog, aircraft has not been able to go up to search.

UPDATE 9:50 a.m.: EMS1, an information service for emergency medical personnel, reports that this is a medical flight. Staff writes, ” A Cal‐Ore Life Flight fixed-wing aircraft, with three crew members and a patient on board, lost contact with its originating airport early Friday morning.” Read more here. 

UPDATE 10 a.m.: Scanner traffic indicates that a possible crash site has been found. We’ll update as soon as possible.

UPDATE 10:02 a.m.: Helicopter crews are setting down “near the old nursery” (We think near Fieldbrook) to search the crash site.

UPDATE 10:24 a.m.: According to the scanner, the FAA is requesting the crash site be secured.

UPDATE 10:39 a.m.: Debris is smoldering and fire crews are on the scene.

UPDATE 11:03 a.m.: Visibility was low this morning when the plane was in trouble. The Crescent City airport had 4 miles visibility at 1 a.m. http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=eka&sid=Kcec&num=72&raw=0 TThe Arcata airport had three miles visibility at one a.m. http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=eka&sid=Kacv&num=72&raw=0

UPDATE 11:12 a.m.: Vegetation fire from the crash is requiring more fire crews including a helicopter.

Press release from Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

This morning at about 10 a.m. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue teams located a crash site on private timber company in the Cranell area of Humboldt County which is located to the north of McKinleyville. At this time at least two fatalities have been confirmed. National Transportation Safety Board has been notified.

Continue to check this page and our Facebook page for updates.

Original news release at 8:15 a.m.:

This is all of the preliminary information we have on a missing plane in the Arcata area:

The pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31 declared an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. Friday.

The plane was flying from Crescent City to Oakland.

The pilot indicated he was going to return to Crescent City.

Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport.

We believe there were three people on board.

The Humboldt County Sheriff is searching for the aircraft.

The tail number is N661TC.

Source:  http://kymkemp.com




UPDATE (11:10 a.m.): According to a CAO press release, 2 fatalities are confirmed. Location of crash site is on private timber company in the Cranell area of Humboldt County, north of McKinleyville.

According to the HCSO, the plane, along with deceased subjects, have been located. More information to be released.

PREVIOUS:

Missing plane in Arcata area (from HCSO):

The pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31 declared an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. Friday.

The plane was flying from Crescent City to Oakland.

The pilot indicated he was going to return to Crescent City.

Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport.

We believe there were three people on board.

The Humboldt County Sheriff is searching for the aircraft.

The tail number is N661TC.

Missing Plane (from CAL-ORE)

REACH Air Medical Services and Cal-Ore Life Flight can confirm that an incident has occurred involving a Piper Cheyenne aircraft associated with our Crescent City, CA base. The plane departed from Crescent City Airport, Jack McNamara Field, for Oakland International Airport at approximately 00:29 AM PST today.

We lost communication with the aircraft at 01:05 AM PST. There were four persons on board: the pilot, a transport medic, a flight nurse and a patient.

At this time, we cannot provide the identity of those on board the aircraft, or other details, until family notifications have been completed. Any comment about the cause or other details of the incident would be unfounded speculation.

We are working with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office who leading the search efforts.

Further updates about this incident will be posted here as soon as they are confirmed.

Source:  http://kiem-tv.com





Authorities in Northern California were searching for a small medical transport plane carrying four people that went missing early Friday.

The pilot of the plane radioed an emergency at around 1 a.m. PT (4 a.m. ET) when smoke filled the cockpit, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Parent company REACH Air Medical Services said the plane was carrying a pilot, flight nurse, transport medic and patient when it went missing over Arcata, California, along the Pacific coast.

The dual-engine Piper PA31 was about 5 miles northeast of the Arcata-Eureka Airport, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

The plane was headed from the northern town of Crescent City to Oakland, a 360-mile trip. Before the plane went missing, the pilot reported that he planned to return to Crescent City.

Don Wharton, spokesman for Cal-Ore Life Flight, which provides the service through REACH, could not immediately provide information about the staff members on board.

"All pilots come to us with vast amount of experience, the average being well over 3,000 miles of air carrier flying time," he said in a statement. "These are all highly skilled professionals."

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