Saturday, January 05, 2019

Robinson R44 Raven I, N772MG: Accident occurred January 02, 2019 - Santa Maria Island, Florida

Sarasota Helicopter Services

NTSB Identification: GAA19CA124
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Wednesday, January 02, 2019 in Santa Maria Island, FL
Aircraft: Robinson R44, registration: N772MG

NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.

Stan Lee
Commercial Helicopter Pilot and Flight instructor.

Pete Boden

Tom MacKnight

Updated January 6, 2019 – ANNA MARIA – A helicopter crashed into the Gulf of Mexico about two miles off Anna Maria Island on Wednesday, January 2nd, sending two men to the hospital, according to Manatee County emergency officials.

The helicopter was shooting video of a boat about 10-15 feet above the water a half-mile west of the Sandbar restaurant when the crash occurred around 11 a.m., said Steve Litschauer, acting chief of Manatee County Emergency Management.

Two men were transported to Blake Medical Center; the pilot, Stanley Lee, in his 60s, with trauma, and Thomas MacKnight, 58, with back injuries, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). The third occupant, photographer Peter Boden, refused treatment.

Lee was listed in stable condition on Friday; MacKnight was not hospitalized.

Emergency workers met the victims at the South Coquina boat ramp for transport to the hospital, said Robert Smith, Manatee County’s public safety director. The boat that was the subject of the video transported them from the crash site to the ramp.

The owner of the Robinson R44 Raven I helicopter is Sarasota Helicopter Services LLC, according to MCSO. Lee is listed as manager of the company, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.

The crew was working for North Carolina-based Fountain Powerboats, according to MacKnight’s Facebook page.

This evening, MacKnight posted on his Facebook page: “Hi Everyone. I want to just let you know that I am out of the hospital and back home. Wish I could say that for my pilot, Stan, who is in critical condition. Please say a prayer for him. We went down hard in the gulf around 11 am while shooting for Fountain Powerboats. I am pretty banged up like I just played a quarter with a pro football team but I am blessed to be here. Guess I am not done here on earth. I lost my camera, wallet, phone, keys but feel like I won the lottery of life today. I appreciate the messages and concern and will try to respond. But now, I am going to chill out. I kind of had a bad day. Again, please pray for Stan and thank you for well wishes and concern. More tomorrow.”

Pete Boden posted: “Just a quick update, I am a bit bruised, but fine! The inflatable Vest worked great, that’s why I wear them. Today God didn’t need us, and for that I am truly thankful. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and prayers!”

A GoFundMe account has been set up for Boden, who lost his camera equipment in the crash.

Original article can be found here ➤

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Thomas MacKnight is thankful to be alive after the helicopter he was in crashed into the water about a mile offshore of Anna Maria Island on Wednesday.

It happened around 11am. MacKnight was one of three people in the Robinson R44 Raven I helicopter belonging to Sarasota Helicopter Services LLC.

MacKnight says the pilot, Stanley Lee, is one of the best in town and he’s flown with him many times. They were shooting video, hovering around 10-15 feet above the water like they normally do, when all of a sudden they hit the water.

“The second we hit, the water, because there’s no doors [on the helicopter when we’re shooting], threw me back into the back of the helicopter. At that point, I wasn’t even conscious of, I mean I didn’t know what was going on. You would never think that you had just crashed,” he said. “As soon as that happened, as soon as we hit, we went down like a rock.”

MacKnight says he was immediately underwater. He had been through safety demonstrations before, so he knew what to do. First, he detached himself from his seat belt and started to try to get out of the helicopter, which had tilted in the water, so he was facing towards the sea floor.

“I got out of the helicopter but I got hung up on something and the helicopter was going down and I looked up and saw the sky going away. Honestly, I thought, ‘This is it,’” MacKnight recalled.

You would think that in a situation like that, MacKnight would have been terrified. But he says it was calm experience. He said he just felt “it was going to be done.”

“When I thought it was going to be my last breath, I wasn’t concerned or upset. As soon as I thought that, I popped away and came up to the top. I looked around for everybody and saw everybody was up. Then I pulled the cord on my life preserver,” said MacKnight.

He says he couldn’t see anyone and didn’t know where everyone else was until he reached the surface. It happened so quickly, it was hard to take anything in, even to understand what had happened to him.

“Stan was obviously in very bad condition. I went over to him. By that time, the boat that we were shooting had come back. They jumped in and were helping us. I told them to go get Stan,” he said.

The passengers on the boat were able to pull all three people from the helicopter out of the water. The U.S. Coast Guard from St. Pete responded, putting two of their crew onto the boat to help with first aid efforts and then escorting the boat Coquina Beach to have the victims transported to the hospital.

Stanley Lee of Sarasota was taken to Blake Hospital under a trauma alert and he is listed in critical condition. MacKnight was taken to Blake Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Peter Bowden had only superficial wounds and refused treatment.

The day after the crash, MacKnight said he hurts all over, his back was hurt and everything is stiff. At the same time, he says he woke up this morning and looked at the ceiling, and thought, ‘Wow, here I am.’ "It’s a different day than it was yesterday. Life’s different.”

But he’s praying for his friend, Stanley Lee, who was hurt badly, and telling others to keep what’s really important at the forefront of their minds.

“Life is precious. We’re all here for some reason, I think. Respect the fact that you are here. Love the people that are closer to you and the people that are not. Every day is a gift and you should use it as you should. I almost didn’t have a today," said MacKnight. “Treat each bother. Let’s make life better while we’re here."

Multiple agencies responded to the scene, including Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Longboat Key Police, Sarasota Police and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, to assist the Coast Guard.

The sheriff’s office located the wreckage using sonar and marked the location. The FAA and NTSB will follow up with removal and further crash investigation. It’s still unknown why the helicopter crashed.

Original article can be found here ➤

MANATEE COUNTY — A vacationer was enjoying the view of the Gulf of Mexico with his wife on Manatee Public Beach when he saw a helicopter plunge into the water and disappear.

Steve Buso of Omaha, Nebraska says he caught a glimpse of the privately-owned aircraft on the horizon, miles offshore, circling alongside a boat.

“It looked like it was kind of hovering, then next thing you know I saw the tail of the helicopter go up and nose-dive right in the ocean,” Buso told SNN-TV. “I saw the spray of all the water going up and I heard a big boom — that caught most people’s attention.”

Moments later the aircraft’s tail sank beneath surface of the water and disappeared.

The pilot, Stanley Lee of Sarasota, was transported to Blake Medical Center in critical condition. Passenger Thomas MacKnight — a guitarist for The Verge and owner of a video production company — was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office said. A third person, Peter Bowden, had minor injuries and was not transported.

The Robinson R44 Raven I is registered to Sarasota Helicopter Services LLC.

The Sheriff’s Office located the wreckage and used sonar to mark its location.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were notified and will remove the helicopter from the sea, and investigate the crash.

Buso said there was commotion on the water he saw from his spot near the beach. The boat was still before it took off.

“It was close enough that I could see it was a helicopter and the tail go up,” Buso said. “I looked at my wife. That helicopter just went into the ocean. I know it did.”

The Sheriff’s Office said a boat that was being filmed from the helicopter, two miles offshore from The Sandbar, rescued the occupants of the helicopter and called 911 around 11 a.m. They met with a Coast Guard vessel that administered first aid on arrival.

“Through the coordination of the good Samaritans, local authorities and crewmen on our boat, we were able to rapidly and safely transport the crash victims to advanced medical care,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Lettington, the coxswain on the Response Boat-Small.

The Coast Guard escorted the boat to awaiting first responders, the Manatee County EMS, West Manatee Fire Department, Manatee County Beach Patrol, Longboat Key Police Department at the South Coquina boat ramp.

The helicopter was flying about 10 to 15 feet above the surface recording video when it crashed, said Robert Smith, the Director of Public Safety at Manatee County Government.

Smith said the helicopter departed from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport earlier in the day.

The MCSO and Sarasota Police Department marine patrol units provided assistance, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission boat towed a piece of the helicopter to shore.

Sarasota police spokeswoman Genevieve Judge said SPD sent one marine unit to help with the crash.

MacKnight posted a statement on Facebook about eight hours later addressing the incident. He asked for prayers for Lee, the injured pilot.

“We went down hard in the gulf around 11 a.m. while shooting for Fountain Powerboats,” MacKnight said in his statement. “I am pretty banged up like I just played a quarter with a pro football team but I am blessed to be here. Guess I am not done here on earth. I lost my camera, wallet, phone, keys but feel like I won the lottery of life today. I appreciate the messages and concern and will try to respond. But now, I am going to chill out. I kind of had a bad day.

“Again, please pray for Stan and thank you for well wishes and concern. More tomorrow.”

Original article can be found here ➤

ANNA MARIA - It was a scary moment in the sky around 11:00 Wednesday morning.

"Once I seen it go down, I said, 'That helicopter just went down in the ocean and disappeared,'” Witness Steve Buso said. 

Buso, a Nebraska resident, was vacationing on the Suncoast. He describes the moment he saw a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico, about a mile offshore of Anna Maria Island's Sandbar Restaurant. 

“I see the tail of the helicopter go up and nosedive right into the ocean, and I saw the spraying from all of the water that was coming up and heard a big boom, and that caught most people’s attention," Buso said. 

Manatee County Public Safety Director Robert Smith says the helicopter, owned by Sarasota Helicopter Services, LLC was flying just 10 to 15 feet above the water, filming a boat.

"We don’t know the circumstances of what caused the accident, but it was seen, and people in the boat transported the patients to the boat ramp,” Smith said. 

He says the pilot, Sarasota Resident Stanley Lee, was taken as a trauma alert to Blake Medical Center and is in critical condition. Another male passenger, Thomas McKnight, was also transported. The third passenger, Peter Bowden, refused treatment, having only superficial wounds, according to a release from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. Smith says if the helicopter were higher, things could have been a lot worse.

"I think in this case, the fact that the helicopter was only 10 to 15 feet above the surface of the water played a big role,” Smith said. 

"That’s what caught my attention," Buso said. "It looked awful low, and kept getting lower and lower and obviously it went down."

Multiple agencies are investigating the cause of this crash.

Original article can be found here ➤

Rotorcraft:  2015 Robinson R44 N772MG, s/n: 2397

Last Annual: 05/25/2018 at 239.4 AFTT

Hobbs currently reads 296.3                                                      

ENGINE: Lycoming IO-540-F1B5, s/n: L-27532-40E

The last 50 hour inspection was recorded on 11/08/2018 at 288.52 ETT: 296.3

EQUIPMENT:   All submerged in saltwater

(1) Garmin GTX327 Transponder

(1) Garmin GTR225B Comm

(1) Integra 406 ELT

DESCRIPTION OF ACCIDENT:  The helicopter impacted the ocean and was completely submerged in saltwater

DESCRIPTION OF DAMAGES:  Damage includes but may not be limited to the following:  

Substantial damage from impact and recovery.

Tail boom was damaged and separated from fuselage

Rotor blades are damaged

Completely submerged in salt water

LOCATION OF HELICOPTER:   Florida Air Recovery & Storage, Jacksonville, Florida

REMARKS:  Engine was not preserved. Rear doors were not on the aircraft at the time of the accident.  Rear doors are in good condition and are included with the salvage.

Read more here:

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