Saturday, November 26, 2016

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne II, N779MF, American Medflight Inc: Fatal accident occurred November 18, 2016 near Elko Regional Airport (KEKO), Nevada

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident. 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report  -  National Transportation Safety Board:


FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Reno FSDO-11

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA024
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, November 18, 2016 in Elko, NV
Aircraft: PIPER PA 31T, registration: N779MF
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 November 18, 2016, about 1920 Pacific standard time, a twin-engine, turbine powered, Piper PA-31T "Cheyenne II" airplane, N779MF, was destroyed when it impacted terrain following a loss of control during initial climb from the Elko Regional Airport, Elko, Nevada. The pilot, two medical crewmembers and one patient sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was being operated as an instrument flight rules (IFR) air transport medical flight by American Med Flight, Inc. under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. Night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed and an FAA instrument flight plan was filed but had not been activated for the intended flight to Salt Lake City, Utah.

During a telephone conversation with a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, a witness located at the Elko Airport, reported that the airplane departed runway 06. During the initial climb, he stated that the airplane made an initial left turn about 30 degrees from the runway heading, then stopped climbing and made an abrupt left bank and descended out of his line of sight. 

The airplane impacted into a parking lot about .5 miles from the departure end of the runway, and immediately burst into flames. Several secondary explosions happened after impact as a result of fire damage to medical compressed gas bottles and several vehicles that were consumed by the post impact fire. The airplane sustained extensive thermal damage from the postcrash fire. All major structural components of the airplane were located within the wreckage.

The wreckage was recovered to a secure location, and detailed examinations of the airframe and engines are pending.

The closest weather reporting facility is the Elko Regional Airport (EKO). At 1856, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) at EKO reported wind 110 degrees at 7 knots; visibility 10 statute miles; clear skies; temperature 33 degrees F; dew point 19 degrees F; altimeter 30.11 inHg.

One week ago dozens of Elko’s first responders were waking up after a nightmare of a night. Hours before, a fixed-wing air ambulance had crashed in a parking lot near the airport, narrowly missing nearby residences and businesses. The impact set off a series of explosions as the plane burned, killing all four aboard and setting vehicles on fire. 

Two officers who were among the first to respond sustained minor injuries as they rushed to help, only to get slammed by a secondary explosion.

We think they deserve awards for bravery. And all of the first responders who served at that frightening scene deserve our thanks and appreciation.

The aircraft and vehicles burned for an hour, as water sprayed from a fire truck did little to stop the flames. The plane’s occupants had no chance of survival, but the crash spared any ground casualties as no one was in the Barrick parking lot. Behind the wheel was pilot Yuji Irie, a Japanese immigrant living in Ely.

“There couldn’t have been a safer place for him to come down without causing additional casualties,” observed Elko police Lt. Rich Genseal. “We need to credit the pilot on that.”

There were probably hundreds of people in the immediate vicinity, between the apartments, motel, casino and shopping mall that surrounded the scene. But no one was in the parking lot, as the latest shift of mine buses had already departed.

The accident happened at the end of a work day – the end of a work week – as many people were beginning to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday ahead. But our police and fire departments are always staffed, and always prepared for the unexpected.

Officers and firefighters from multiple agencies responded, sealing off the streets and highways to keep people out of harm’s way. It was a chaotic and dangerous scene, but our first responders did what was needed without fearing for their own safety. It’s easy to forget, but that’s what these people do day in and day out as they perform their jobs.

Their first goal is to rescue anyone who might be saved. Next, they work to stop the spread of destruction and prevent any further damage or loss of life.

In this incident, it was a matter of emergency crews responding to the scene of what was already an emergency. A patient with a serious medical problem was being transported to Utah.

Besides the pilot and the patient, who were both in their 60s, the crash killed a young father from Utah and a young nurse from Elko who was known for her work as a volunteer firefighter. All four were remembered at a solemn candlelight vigil three nights later.

Friends, family members and other concerned residents would go back to their homes and continue their holiday preparations. And extra prayers were said around the tables on Thursday, for those who were lost and for those who bravely serve to save us.


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