Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Robinson R44 Raven II, N107EH: Fatal accident occurred March 31, 2020 in Audubon, Iowa

Pilot Ryan Doolittle

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.

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

Additional Participating Entity:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Des Moines, Iowa

Location: Audubon, IA
Accident Number: CEN20LA136
Date & Time: 03/31/2020, 1630 CDT
Registration: N107EH
Aircraft: Robinson R44
Injuries:2 Fatal 
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Aerial Observation

On March 31, 2020, about 1630 central daylight time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N107EH, was destroyed when it impacted wires and terrain while maneuvering at low altitude near Audubon, Iowa. The pilot and passenger were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 aerial observation flight.

A witness who was working in a nearby field reported seeing the helicopter hit powerlines. the helicopter then impacted the ground and a postimpact fire ensued.

Another witness who was inside his house heard the helicopter fling low and then heard a loud bang. When he went outside he saw the smoke from the accident scene.

A third witness who was driving south in her car reported that she saw the helicopter crash upside-down on the west side of the road and then burst into flames.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N107EH
Model/Series: R44 II
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: Ride the Sky Helicopters
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation: ADU, 1288 ft msl
Observation Time: 2135 UTC
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 20°C / -8°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / ,
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.95 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Carroll, IA (CIN)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: On-Ground
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Benjamin Joel Peterson
October 3, 1996 - March 31, 2020
Born in Des Moines, Iowa
Resided in Des Moines, Iowa

At this time, since public gatherings have been limited to 10 people or less, there will be a private graveside service for family only at 2pm, Wednesday, April 15, 2020 at Glendale Cemetery. Friends are invited to join the family through a live stream link that will appear on Ben's Obituary information on our website, starting at 1:50PM, Wednesday, April 15, 2020. We also encourage friends and extended family to share their condolences and stories using the online condolences available on our website.

Benjamin Joel Peterson was doing what he was made to do — observing and delighting in creation as a field biologist for Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc. (WEST), when he was tragically killed in a helicopter crash on March 31, 2020. Ben loved and followed Jesus in everything he did, including completing surveys to further wildlife conservation. Through this grievous loss, his family looks forward to being reunited with him at the resurrection, when there will be no more sorrow, no more tears, and no more death. Until that day, he will be greatly missed by the many, many people whose lives he touched.

Ben was a bright spark in this sometimes-dark world, well-liked by all who knew him. A special person and wonderful employee, friend, brother, grandchild, and son. Ben was energetic, enthusiastic, and always eager to learn and take on new challenges. With a deep love of wildlife and the outdoors, Ben always found time for fishing, hunting, photography, and generally whatever allowed him to be out in nature.

Ben was born October 3, 1996, in Des Moines, Iowa, to Bill and Christi Peterson. He was an incredible big brother to his younger siblings, Allie of Des Moines, Mindy serving with the Navy, John of Des Moines, and Josh of Des Moines. He is also survived by his grandparents, Bill and Janice Peterson of Moorland, Iowa, and Lee and Joyce Probert of Alexandria, Minnesota, and aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Given Ben’s passion for creation, a memorial to honor Ben is being established to promote conservation of wildlife and/or environmental education. The Ben Peterson Wildlife Conservation Fund will provide resources to a non-profit conservation organizations in his home state of Iowa. Please consider contributing to help further the positive impact that this young man had on the natural places and resources of Iowa, conserving natural places Ben loved and educating future nature enthusiasts. Ben believed deeply in the peace and solace that could be found in the natural world - it is our sincere hope that this fund will provide meaningful comfort and value both in these trying times and into the future. We are sincerely grateful for any support you are able to provide.

If you would like to contribute, please send donations to Ben Peterson Wildlife Conservation Fund c/o 1st National Bank 301- 5th Street, West Des Moines, IA 50265.

A service for all will be announced at a later date. Please visit to leave online condolences and to view a life story video. Arrangements by Iles Westover Chapel

Benjamin Joel Peterson

AUDUBON COUNTY, Iowa — Authorities have identified two victims of a deadly helicopter crash that happened March 31.

Shortly before 4:30 p.m., the Audubon County Sheriff's Office responded to a helicopter crash near 240th Street and Robin Avenue near the Guthrie County Sheriff's Office. The Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter had four passengers and was registered to MN Helicopters, Inc. of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and leased by Ride the Sky Helicopters, Inc.

The pilot Ryan Doolittle, 30, of Minneapolis, and a passenger, 23-year-old Benjamin Peterson of Des Moines, were killed in the crash.  Peterson was employed by Western EcoSystem Tech to perform an aerial wildlife survey when the crash happened.

(Audubon) Audubon County Sheriff Todd Johnson tells KSOM/KS95 News two people died in the helicopter crash near the Audubon and Guthrie County line.

The Audubon County Sheriff’s Office received the call at around 4:27 p.m. of the crash at 240th and Robin Avenue. Sheriff Johnson says an individual in the area heard a loud sound and observed the helicopter crashing. The witness called 911, Guthrie County, received the call and forwarded the information to Audubon County. The Audubon and Exira Fire and Rescue units were dispatched to the area. When crews arrived they observed a helicopter on fire and the area around it on fire due to a downed powerline.

Sheriff Johnson says two individuals with Minnesota addresses perished in the fire. Authorities did not release their names pending notification of family. The FAA is investigating the crash, with the assistance of the Iowa State Patrol Technical Investigation and the Audubon County Sheriff’s Office.

Rod Frank witnessed the crash. He tells KSOM/KS95 News he saw a low flying helicopter cross two transmission lines. The rotor blades hit one of the lines and took the helicopter down. The rotoraft immediately became engulfed in flames. He says the debris struck a pickup truck passing through the area.

The Audubon County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Guthrie County Sheriff’s Office, Guthrie County EMA, Audubon County EMA, Audubon Fire & Rescue, Exira Fire Department, Audubon County Secondary Roads, Iowa State Patrol, and the Federal Aviation Administration. The accident remains under investigation.

AUDUBON, Iowa — Two Minnesota victims were killed Tuesday afternoon when their helicopter crashed and burned near the Audubon County-Guthrie County line, the Audubon County Sheriff’s office announced Wednesday in a statement to the press.

According to the statement, “an individual was in the area of 240th Street and Robin Avenue when they heard a loud sound and observed a helicopter crashing.” 

The Guthrie County Sheriff’s office received the witness’ 911 call about 4 p.m. and relayed the information to Audubon County.

The Audubon and Exira Fire and Rescue Departments responded and found “the helicopter and the area around it was on fire, due to a power line that had been taken down in the crash,” the statement said.

The identities of the crash victims are being withheld until the families are notified.

The investigation is being led by the Federal Aviation Administration, assisted by the Iowa State Patrol Technical Investigation and the Audubon County Sheriff’s Office. Responding to the incident were the Guthrie County Sheriff’s office, Guthrie County EMA, Audubon County EMA, Audubon Fire and Rescue, Exira Fire Department and Audubon County Secondary Roads.


  1. Before all you Robinson haters start commenting, sorry but he hit wires.

  2. Robinson haters, huh? Or are they just pointing out that Robinson winds up more often on KR relative to their numbers than any other aircraft here, fixed wing or rotor? But hey, the "haters" here aren't alone. Here's but one example article here from 2017 on KR:

    "Fatal crashes prompt New Zealand agency to stop using Torrance-built Robinson helicopters permanently"

    You couldn't pay ME to fly in one of those death traps (or learn how to fly one).

    1. Wait until the drone fanboys bring you passenger EVTOL "flying taxis" to tumble and crash all over the place. The safety record of Robinsons will be a Gold Standard that cannot be reached in that new world.

      At least an intact Robinson can auto rotate.