Friday, June 19, 2020

Robinson R66 Turbine, N4QW: Fatal accident occurred June 18, 2020 in Pikeville, Wayne County, North Carolina

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; Charlotte, North Carolina 

Kritter Cropdusting Inc

Location: Pikeville, NC
Accident Number: ERA20LA220
Date & Time: 06/18/2020, 1700 EDT
Registration: N4QW
Aircraft: Robinson R66
Injuries: 1 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural 

On June 18, 2020, at 1700 eastern daylight time, a Robinson R66 helicopter, N4QW, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Pikeville, North Carolina. The pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was being operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 137 aerial application flight.

The commercial pilot was the owner of the agricultural company and was spraying insecticide on a corn field when the accident occurred. According to several witnesses, this was the first time the pilot had sprayed the field. Prior to the flight, the pilot met with the landowner to discuss the scope of work and any potential hazards.

Witnesses reported that prior to the application of the insecticide, the pilot performed two flyovers of the corn field. The first flyover was accomplished before the loading of the insecticide. After landing and loading, the pilot took off then performed an additional flyover before he began spraying. The helicopter was operating 3 to 5 ft above the 6-ft-tall corn during the spraying operation and was on the second pass when the accident occurred. As the helicopter flew over the field on a northerly heading, an eyewitness heard a "popping" and saw the helicopter out of control before impacting terrain and coming to rest in the northeast corner of the field adjacent to trees.

The helicopter impacted with a non-energized wire, also known as a "dove wire" that was mounted on a 40 ft pole (see figure 1). The wire stretched across the width (250 ft) of the corn field to the trees bordering the east side of field, perpendicular to the flight path. In addition, there was a hunting stand attached to the pole about 10 ft above the ground.

Figure 1 - Accident location overview showing corn field, pole/wire, and the location of the wreckage. 

The wreckage path was oriented on a heading of about 030° magnetic, and the distance from wire impact to the final wreckage location was about 275 ft. The tail rotor assembly separated about 2 ft aft of the rotating beacon light and was found in a nearby irrigation ditch. All major components of the helicopter were present at the accident site. Both main rotor blades remained attached to the hub. About 75 ft of 5/16 inch diameter braided metal wire was wrapped around the blade pitch change horns, swashplate, pitch links, rotor hub, and both rotor blades (figure 2). In addition, there were tears and scuff mark damage to the blades that was consistent with contact with the wire. Cyclic and collective control continuity was confirmed. Tail rotor control continuity could not be confirmed due to impact damage. The fuselage was crushed on the pilot's (right) side. The engine compartment and turbine engine remained intact. The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Figure 2 - Wire wrapped around the helicopter's rotor head and blades. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N4QW
Model/Series: R66 No Series
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural Aircraft (137)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: GWW, 133 ft msl
Observation Time: 1655 EDT
Distance from Accident Site: 12 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 27°C / 17°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 4800 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 150°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.07 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Pikeville, NC
Destination: Pikeville, NC

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:N/A 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 35.444722, -77.925000

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

Eugene John Kritter, III
June 13th, 1955 - June 18th, 2020 

 Eugene John Kritter, III, 65, 20634 Mt. Pony Road, Culpeper, Virginia, died Thursday as a result of a helicopter crash. Arrangements are incomplete at Haskins Funeral Home & Cremations LLC.

GOLDSBORO, North Carolina — Wayne County law enforcement reported a helicopter crashed in a field just north of Goldsboro on Thursday. The pilot of the helicopter died in the crash.

The crash was reported just about four miles north of Goldsboro in the area of 260 Daw Pate Road. Wayne County Dispatch confirmed to WRAL the helicopter went down in a field. Sky 5 was over the scene and saw the downed helicopter at the edge of a field near a line of trees.

Wayne County Public Information Officer Joel Gillie confirmed the fatality to WRAL Thursday evening. The Highway Patrol said the pilot was Eugene John Kritter III of Culpepper, Va.

The FAA reported the helicopter struck a power line while spraying corn and went down at 5:23 p.m. Only the pilot was on board.

"A Robinson R66 helicopter struck a power line and crashed in a field near 320 Daw Pate Road in Pikeville, N.C., today at 5:23 p.m. Contact local authorities for information on the pilot, the only person aboard the aircraft. The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine the probable cause of the accident," the FAA said in a statement.

Information online listed the helicopter registered to Kritter Cropdusting, Inc. in Culpeper, Va. It is a five-seat helicopter that has been registered with the company since June 15, 2020.

Steve Gurganus lives across from the field where the helicopter crashed.

"He was getting closer to the far woods back over there and the next thing I hear was what sounded like a gunshot," Gurganus said. "It wasn’t probably a few minutes later then I smell a little bit of smoke."

The State Highway Patrol was on the scene leading the investigation. Patetown Fire and other agencies were also assisting, officials said.

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