Thursday, May 3, 2018

Robinson R22 Mariner, N923SM: Accident occurred May 02, 2018 in Panama City, Florida

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; NW Florida

Helicopter crashed into the water.

N923SM LLC:  http://registry.faa.govN923SM

Date: 02-MAY-18
Time: 15:00:00Z
Regis#: N923SM
Aircraft Make: ROBINSON
Aircraft Model: R22 MARINER
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: UNKNOWN (UNK)
Operation: 133

PANAMA CITY BEACH — The pilot of a Robinson R22 helicopter that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico near Carillon Beach Resort made it to shore safe and uninjured Wednesday morning, though the same could not be said for his aircraft.

Witnesses reported seeing the R22, a light, single-bladed helicopter about 28 feet long, flying with another, larger helicopter moments before the crash. Shauna Rutt, who was laying on the beach with her mother, remembered seeing the larger helicopter flying up and down the beach the day before. Helicopters are a common sight in the area, ferrying tourists out for spectacular views of the Gulf.

When the R22 began to lose altitude, she didn’t think anything of it. The aircraft had buoys on its skids allowing it to float and for a moment she thought the pilot was attempting a water landing.

“At first I thought, ’This is really cool, a landing right in front of us,” she said.

Then, she noticed the propellers were barely spinning. The helicopter took a nose dive into the Gulf and for several heart-stopping moments was submerged.

Less than a minute later, the helicopter popped back up to the surface with the pilot - the lone occupant - clinging to the buoy. Rutt said he climbed onto the helicopter, floating belly-up between the first and second sandbars, and waited for a rescue.

The crash triggered a massive emergency response, with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Fish and Wildlife, US Coast Guard, Panama City Beach Police Department, Panama City Beach and Surf and even several lifeguards answering the call. Numerous first responders jumped on paddleboards and made their way out to the pilot, who made it back on shore with “just a little salt water ingestion,” according to BCSO Lt. Chad King.

Chriss and Monika Morrisson, who live nearby, ran down to the beach expecting the worst. They stood together on the white sand, nervously watching the Coast Guard vessel keeping an eye on the overturned helicopter.

“I am just so happy he walked away from it,” Chriss Morrison remarked.

After the excitement died down, the wreck attracted quite a crowd, with about two dozen bystanders out on the water line watching the upturned helicopter bob in the surf, a buoy emblazoned with “” sticking up in the air.

With the help of its two buoys and a decent wind, the wreck floated about a half mile west down the beach before drifting in far enough to get stuck on the first sandbar while emergency crews waited for the Federal Aviation Administration to respond and begin its investigation. At one point, the helicopter’s door was pushed open, the pilot’s belongings drifting away into the Gulf.

According to the FAA, the downed R22 Mariner was a commercial helicopter built in 1991 and was most recently registered in 2014. Also according to the FAA, an aircraft’s owner is responsible for removing an aircraft from a crash site. The FAA will be investigating the crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board will issue a probable cause.

When the R22 emerged from the Gulf later in the afternoon and was flipped right-side up, it was clear the crash could have been much worse. All of the glass had shattered in the impact, the snapped propeller hung at an awkward angle like a broken arm, and the tail lay several feet away, completely severed.

The name of the pilot has not yet been released. Efforts to reach were unsuccessful, but a website for the company says they operate out of West Palm Beach, shooting photos of boats, primarily at events, which they then sell back to the owners. Helicopters operated by the company, many of them the same R22 model or the slightly larger R44 model, have been involved in several accidents, including one near Oaks Island Pier in Brunswick County, North Carolina in 2012 and over Lake Travis in Austin, Texas in May 2008. 

Original article can be found here ➤

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