Monday, May 27, 2019

Robinson R22 Beta, privately owned and operated as a personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, N4047H: Accident occurred April 06, 2019 near Alpha Hotel Airport (07VA), Clover, Virginia

A walking miracle: Pilot on the mend after helicopter crash

Helicopter pilot Lee Hilty continues to recover from an April crash that could easily have claimed his life. Friends and family gathered at the home of Dave Slabach on Friday for a deck party giving thanks for Hilty’s recovery. Lee Hilty and his father, Ben Hilty are surrounded by some of their friends including from left, Merlin Brougher, Kim Brougher, Jean Beiler, Marcus Beiler, Gert Slabach, Dave Slabach, and Neil Smiley.

Lee Hilty managed to walk away from a helicopter crash after leaving the home of his friend, Neil Smiley, near Clover on April 16th, 2019.

That he was able to remain conscious and walk away from the crash is in itself a miracle, according to family and friends, who gathered at the home of Gert and Dave Slabach on Friday for a deck party, in Gert Slabach’s words, “to celebrate the miracle of God that Lee survived the crash and is doing remarkably well.”

Hilty crashed his helicopter near Clover on April 6, was airlifted to UNC and spent five nights there before returning home.

He is continuing to recover from his accident at the Slabach’s home, with his burn injuries requiring the application of a salve every 12 hours twice a day for the time he’s been there, according to Hilty.

Kim Brougher is among those who have tended to Hilty’s wounds while he recuperates at the Smiley residence, with the help of a natural agent found in burdock leaves to help the healing process.

“You find the leaves in the pasture, you boil the leaves and dry them,” said Brougher, adding the salve made with the use of burdock leaves is used to apply to burns to keep them from getting infected.

Hilty’s injuries included second and third degree burns on 10-15 percent of his body, a dislocated right ankle, partially dislocated upper right jaw, an injury to one of his eye sockets, chipped teeth, a bit tongue, and a compression injury to his back.

“This isn’t a party for me, it’s to thank God for what he’s brought me through,” Hilty told the more than 50 people gathered to support him on Friday.

“The accident I can’t blame on anybody but myself,” Hilty noted.

“It’s my fault. God was with me from beginning to end, and within seconds of the accident, somebody was there.

“Somebody’s been there with me ever since. It’s been amazing, my church family and the community, the prayers and comments.

“I’ve had visitors all the way from Nevada.

“This has been so encouraging and thank you all for your support.”

That he was able to remain conscious and walk away from the crash is indeed a miracle, according to family and friends, including Neil Smiley, a professional airline pilot who witnessed the crash first-hand as Hilty was leaving Smiley’s home the night of April 6.

A slight mistake in his takeoff procedure produced near tragic results, with the helicopter’s rotor blades hitting the trees 50 feet in the air causing the helicopter to crash.

“I saw the whole thing, and I never want to experience that again,” noted Smiley.

“I was very, very happy when I got to the woods and saw Lee,” added Smiley, adding it took him about four minutes to reach the crash site.

Hilty had managed to escape the burning helicopter, and he was sitting up and talking when Smiley found him.

Hilty’s recovery has been nothing sort of miraculous, with the hand of God all the way through, Smiley pointed out.

“If you saw the wreckage you don’t know how it’s survivable,” said Smiley, who considers Hilty’s survival as miraculous.

Smiley also noted the support of the Mennonite community in particular and the community as a whole in supporting Hilty in his recovery.

There’s no other explanation for Hilty’s surviving the crash other than divine intervention, according to Dave Slabach, referring to comments made by physicians treating Hilty and airplane pilots who visited the crash site.

Hilty’s recovery continues, and his injuries are still visible but continue to heal.

“Dave Slabach has put me up here and hasn’t asked for a thing,” Hilty said.

“They’ve been so gracious letting me stay here. It’s been incredible.”

Original article can be found here ➤

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Richmond, Virginia
Robinson Helicopters; Torrance, California 

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board:

Location: Clover, VA
Accident Number: ERA19LA144
Date & Time: 04/06/2019, 2208 EDT
Registration: N4047H
Aircraft: Robinson R22
Injuries: 1 Serious
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On April 6, 2019, at 2208 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R22 Beta, N4047H, was destroyed by a post-crash fire when it collided with terrain during departure from Alpha Hotel Airport (07VA), Clover, Virginia. The private pilot was seriously injured. The helicopter was privately owned and operated as a personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and no flight plan was filed.

According to a witness, the helicopter arrived at 07VA at 1830. The pilot approached from the south and landed facing north. About 2200 the witness drove the pilot back to the helicopter where they discussed his departure plan. The pilot planned to liftoff, hover, turn 180° to the left and depart southbound while climbing steeply above the tree tops. The pilot brought the helicopter to a hover, rotated about 150° and started the steep departure climb. As the helicopter climbed, it crossed over the runway and the main rotor blades impacted a tree about 50 ft above the ground. The helicopter turned sharply and fell nose down to the ground. The witness stated that prior to takeoff the helicopter sounded and appeared to perform normally; all navigation and landing lights were functioning prior to takeoff.

An examination of the helicopter by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector and a representative from Robinson Helicopters revealed that the helicopter came to rest at the base of a tree. A post-crash fire destroyed the cockpit and instrument panel. Examination of the main rotor blades revealed both blades remained attached to the main rotor hub and were buckled. Examination of the main rotor transmission revealed rotational scoring. The tail boom was impact and fire damaged. The tail rotor blades were buckled and remained attached to the tail rotor gearbox. Initial examination of the engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N4047H
Model/Series: R22 BETA
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Night/Dark
Observation Facility, Elevation: W78, 350 ft msl
Observation Time: 2215 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 0 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Unknown
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 5 knots / , 130°
Lowest Ceiling: Overcast / 9500 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.28 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Clover, VA (07VA)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Serious
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Serious
Latitude, Longitude: 36.819722, -78.783056 (est)

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