Friday, April 27, 2018

Aerospatiale AS 350B2 Ecureuil, N127LN: Fatal accident occurred April 26, 2018 in Hazelhurst, Oneida County, Wisconsin

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

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration; Washington, District of Columbia
Turbomeca; Grand Prairie, Texas
Airbus; Grand Prairie, Texas
Honeywell; Phoenix, Arizona
Air Methods; Denver, Colorado
Federal Aviation Administration; Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Federal Aviation Administration; Fort Worth, Texas
Appareo Systems; Fargo, North Dakota
Bureau d’EnquĂȘtes et d’Analyses; Paris, France
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Hazelhurst, WI
Accident Number: CEN18FA149
Date & Time: 04/26/2018, 2250 CDT
Registration: N127LN
Aircraft: EUROCOPTER AS 350 B2
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Positioning 

On April 26, 2018, about 2250 central daylight time, a Eurocopter AS 350 B2 helicopter, N127LN, impacted trees and terrain during cruise flight near Hazelhurst, Wisconsin. The pilot and two crewmembers were fatally injured. The helicopter was destroyed during the impact. The helicopter was registered to and operated by Air Methods Corporation as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 repositioning flight. Night visual meteorological conditions were reported in the area about the time of the accident, and the flight was operating on a company visual flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from the Dane County Regional Airport-Truax Field (MSN), near Madison, Wisconsin, about 2104 and was destined for the Howard Young Medical Center Heliport (60WI), near Woodruff, Wisconsin.

Earlier in the day the emergency medical services (EMS) crew had transported a patient to the Madison area. The purpose of this flight was to reposition the helicopter back to 60WI. The helicopter was serviced with 80 gallons of fuel at MSN. According to initial information, the pilot radioed that he departed from MSN. The helicopter did not arrive at its destination at its estimated arrival time, and the operator started their search procedures for the helicopter. The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center placed a call to the operator and advised that an emergency locator transmitter signal associated with the helicopter was received by the center. The center informed the operator of a latitude and longitude in which to look for the helicopter. The helicopter was subsequently found near that location about 0215 on April 27, 2018.

The 34-year-old pilot held a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) commercial pilot certificate with rotorcraft-helicopter and instrument helicopter ratings. He also held a private pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. He held an FAA second class medical certificate issued on May 31, 2017. On his last application for the medical certificate the pilot reported having accumulated 3,200 hours of total flight time, with 100 hours logged with the preceding six months. According to initial information from the operator, the pilot received training on January 5 and 7, 2018 and satisfactorily passed a check ride.

N127LN was a 2006 model Eurocopter (Airbus) AS 350 B2, four-place, single-engine helicopter, with serial number 4149. The helicopter was configured for EMS transport services. It was powered by a Turbomeca Arriel 1D1 turboshaft engine, with serial number 19129. The engine had a maximum takeoff power rating of 732 shaft horsepower and a continuous power rating of 625 horsepower. According to initial information, the helicopter was maintained under a company aircraft inspection program and had undergone 100 and 600-hour inspections on April 25, 2018, at an airframe total time of 5,152.8 hours. The helicopter was not equipped with a vehicle engine multifunction display or a digital electronic control unit. However, it was equipped with an enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS).

At 2255, the recorded weather at the Lakeland Airport/Noble F. Lee Memorial Field, near Minocqua, Wisconsin, was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 0° C; dew point -1° C; altimeter 29.88 inches of mercury.

At 2253, the recorded weather at the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport, near Rhinelander, Wisconsin, was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 2° C; dew point 1° C; altimeter 29.87 inches of mercury.

At 2253, the recorded weather at the Eagle River Union Airport, near Eagle River, Wisconsin, was: Wind calm; visibility 10 statute miles; sky condition clear; temperature 0° C; dew point 0° C; altimeter 29.86 inches of mercury.

According to U.S. Naval Observatory Sun and Moon Data, the end of local civil twilight in the Rhinelander, Wisconsin, area was 2031 and local moonset was at 0507 on April 27, 2018. The observatory characterized the phase of the moon as "waxing gibbous with 88% of the Moon's visible disk illuminated."

The helicopter was found in a wooded area about 178° and 8.4 nautical miles from 60WI. First responders indicated that the sky was clear, the moon was visible, and there was a smell of fuel at the time the helicopter was located. However, the wreckage did not exhibit any signs of fire. A tree about 70 ft tall about 66° and 47 feet from the nose of the wreckage had branches broken in its upper canopy. Trees in between this tree and the wreckage had their trunks and branches broken and linearly separated. The path of the broken and separated trunks and branches through the trees was steep. A ground impression about 11 ft by 9 ft and 2 ft deep was found in front of the helicopter wreckage. The helicopter came to rest on its right side. The heading of the wreckage from tail to nose was about 095°. During the on-scene examination, the smell of fuel was present at the site and in the ground below the helicopter. All major components of the helicopter were located at the site. The cockpit and cabin area was destroyed. The fuselage exhibited rearward crushing deformation. The tailboom was attached to the fuselage. The tail rotor gear box and tail rotor blades remained on the tail. However, the vertical fin had partially detached from the end of the tailboom. Both horizontal stabilizers were present on the tail. All three rotor blades remained attached to the rotor hub, and the rotor hub was attached to the transmission. The main rotor blades exhibited damage to include spar fractures and leading-edge abrasions and depressions. The main rotor hub rotated when the transmission's input drive shaft was rotated by hand. The fuel tank was fragmented. Yaw, pitch, lateral, and collective controls were traced from the cockpit to their respective servo actuators. Engine controls were traced from the cockpit through their respective bellcranks to their engine components. A magnetic plug in the hydraulic system had some particulate on its magnetic end. The filter bypass button on the hydraulic control block was popped. The hydraulic pump was turned by a drill and the pump exhibited a suction and pressure at the pump's inlet and outlet. Disassembly of the hydraulic pump revealed scoring witness marks on the pump housing in its gear's plane of rotation and no debris or obstructions were observed within the pump ports.

The engine was found on the ground and was separated from the fuselage. The engine's compressor blades exhibited nick and gouge damage consistent with foreign object ingestion. The power turbine blades exhibited silver colored deposits on them. The power turbine was turned by hand and the drive train did not turn. Subsequent examination revealed that the engine's Module 5 reduction gearbox had migrated out of its installed position, rearward, to the extent its O-ring groove was visible. The Module 5 gearbox was removed for inspection of the input pinion torque alignment marks. The marks were found to be misaligned approximately 2 millimeters in the tightening direction which is consistent with engine power being delivered to the drive train during the main rotor blade impact sequence.

The Oneida County Coroner was asked to perform an autopsy on the pilot and to take toxicological samples.

The helicopter was equipped with an Appareo Vision 1000 recorder unit, which records to both a removable secure data (SD) card and internal memory. Both the unit and the SD card sustained impact damage. The unit and its SD card were shipped to the National Transportation Safety Board Recorder Laboratory to see if they contain data in reference to the accident flight. A hydraulic fluid sample and a fuel sample were retained for testing. Additionally, the hydraulic magnetic plug, the hydraulic pump, hydraulic filter, four actuators, and the EGPWS were retained for further examination. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: EUROCOPTER
Registration: N127LN
Model/Series: AS 350 B2 NO SERIES
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: On-demand Air Taxi (135)
Operator Does Business As:
Operator Designator Code: QMLA

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night
Observation Facility, Elevation: KARV, 1630 ft msl
Observation Time: 2255 CDT
Distance from Accident Site: 11 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 0°C / -1°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.88 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Departure Point: MADISON, WI (MSN)
Destination: WOODRUFF, WI (60WI) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  45.754444, -89.695833

The air ambulance helicopter crash Thursday night in Hazelhurst has affected staff and families of Ascension and Air Methods across the region and the country.

In a joint follow up statement, representatives from the two organizations said the “outpouring of support from our Ascension and Air Methods families, first responders and the community has been significant and greatly appreciated.”

Ascension public relations manager Tom Weaver released photos and names of the three crew members who perished in the accident. Deceased are Rico Caruso, 34, of Hazelhurst- Air Methods pilot; Greg Rosenthal, 43, of Mosinee- flight paramedic and Klint Mitchell, 30, of Watersmeet, Mich. – flight nurse.

Also in the follow up statement released Saturday, Weaver announced the Howard Young Foundation will be using its ‘Helping Hands’ fund for any donations to benefit the families of the Spirit team affected by this tragedy. All donations collected will go to the affected families.  To donate, people are asked to visit the foundation’s website at or call  715-439-4005. Donations can also be mailed to Howard Young Foundation, PO Box 470, Woodruff, WI 54568.  Checks may be made payable to Howard Young Foundation – Spirit.

A remembrance banner has been placed near the recently constructed entrance to the Howard Young Medical Center campus along Highway 51. Similar areas are being planned for other facilities in the area.

Oneida County dispatchers were alerted to a missing air ambulance approximately 11:22 p.m. April 26. The last known contact with the helicopter was at approximately 10:55 p.m.  Emergency responders searched the last known area of the aircraft.  At approximately 2:00 a.m., emergency responders located the helicopter in the town of Hazelhurst.  Three occupants, including the pilot were on board the aircraft; all three occupants were found deceased.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are continuing the investigation.

Air Methods and Ascension previously announced that both ground and air medical transport would be suspended until further notice. However, Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transportation has been able to resume operation of its ground units for interfacility transport. The Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Air Medical services remain grounded.

Ascension Wisconsin has released photos of the three victims in Thursday night's air ambulance helicopter. From left, Rico Caruso, Air Methods pilot; Greg Rosenthal, flight paramedic and Klint Mitchell, flight nurse.

HAZELHURST -  Saturday afternoon, the Oneida County Sheriff's Office identified the victims killed in a medical helicopter crash.

Gregory Rosenthal of Mosinee, 43, Rico Caruso of Hazelhurst, 34, and Klint Mitchell of Watersmeet, MI, 30, all died when their Ascension SPIRIT Air helicopter crashed into the woods in Hazelhurst late Thursday night.  The Oneida County Medical Examiner told Newswatch 12 all three died on impact.  

The NTSB reported Friday that the victims included a pilot and two medical staff members, however the agency did not identify the victims at that time.  Ascension spokesman Tom Weaver confirmed to Newswatch 12 Saturday that Caruso was the helicopter's pilot.  There was no patient on board at the time of the crash.

The Eurocopter AS350 was returning to its base at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff after dropping a patient off in Madison. The last known contact with the helicopter came at 10:55 p.m. on Thursday.   Oneida County Emergency Dispatch received a call alerting police to the missing helicopter around 11:20 p.m.

Emergency responders searched the area and found the wreckage in the woods past South Blue Lake Road around 2:00 a.m. Friday.

The NTSB and FAA took control of the investigation Friday. A preliminary report could come out in the next week, but a full report -- including what caused the crash -- could take about a year.

The Howard Young Foundation set up a fund for Rosenthal, Caruso, and Mitchell's families.  You can donate by following the steps through this link.

Joint Statement from Air Methods and Ascension Wisconsin

We are deeply saddened and mourning the loss of three teammates who were aboard the air medical helicopter that went down in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin last night.

Our heartfelt sympathies and condolences go out to the families and friends of the crew onboard. We will not release any names at this time to respect the privacy of their families.

The accident is currently under investigation by the NTSB and FAA and we will support their work in every way possible.

In addition, we have made the decision to suspend operations of our air and ground medical transport units until we determine when it is appropriate to resume operations. We are working with our EMS partners and medical transportation colleagues in the region to meet the needs of patient transport.

We would like to thank the dedicated Emergency Response professionals in our community who have been responding to this incident.

There is no further information available at this time.

ONEIDA COUNTY, Wis. (WAOW) - Three people are dead after a helicopter crash in Oneida County, according to the Oneida County Medical Examiner.

The medical helicopter, which is based in Woodruff, dropped off a patient in Madison Thursday and was heading back to the Northwoods, according to a spokesman with the National Transportation Safety Board. The helicopter crashed 12 miles south of its destination, a FAA spokesperson told News 9. 

The Oneida County Sheriff's Department said the helicopter was found in Hazelhurst. The three were all flight crew members, according to the medical examiner. No patients were on board. 

No identities are being released at this time, pending notification to family members. The three are believed to have died on impact, according to the medical examiner. 

The body of the pilot is being sent for an autopsy, which is standard protocol, according to the medical examiner.

The FAA will send a team to the site and the National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation. 

The helicopter went missing Thursday night, according to the sheriff's office. According to the press release, the Oneida Dispatch Center received the call at about 11:22 p.m.

Ascension Wisconsin released the following statement Friday afternoon: 

"We are deeply saddened and mourning the loss of three teammates who were aboard the air medical helicopter that went down in Hazelhurst, Wisconsin on April 26.

Our heartfelt sympathies and condolences go out to the families and friends of the crew onboard. We will not release any names at this time to respect the privacy of their families."

Ascension said ground and air medical transport has been suspended until further notice.

The Associated Press reports at least eight agencies were involved in the search.

Several local fire department are extending condolences on Facebook.

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