Monday, February 15, 2021

Bell 206B JetRanger III, N13AT: Fatal accident occurred February 15, 2021 in Saint Thomas, Caribbean

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 Entities: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; San Juan, Puerto Rico
Rolls Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana  

Caribbean Buzz Management LLC

Location: St Thomas, CB
Accident Number: ERA21FA130
Date & Time: February 15, 2021, 15:14 Local 
Registration: N13AT
Aircraft: Bell 206
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Aerial observation

On February 15, 2021, about 1514 Atlantic Standard time , a Bell 206B-III, N13AT, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 sightseeing flight.

According to the Director of Operations, who was also a pilot for the operator, the accident flight was a planned 17-minute sightseeing flight around the island.

A witness standing in his front yard saw the helicopter fly over his house and out over the ocean. He stated the helicopter started to make a 180° turn back toward him. At that time, the witness pulled out his mobile phone and started recording a video of the helicopter flying toward him. The local terrain had steep slopes and he was located at the peak of a steep hill. Review of the video revealed that the terrain was ascending as the helicopter flew closer to the witness. About 6 seconds after the start of the video, a puff of dark-colored smoke emanated from the vicinity of the engine compartment, which dissipated in the helicopter’s rotor wash. The helicopter then abruptly yawed nose-left, after which the nose yawed right and the helicopter descended in a right turn toward the wooded terrain downhill from the witness.

The accident site was located in heavily wooded, steep terrain and came to rest upright oriented on a heading of about 200 degrees magnetic. The landing skids, main rotor system, main rotor drive system, engine, hydraulic system, and the forward portion of the tail rotor drive system were thermally damaged by the post-impact fire. The majority of the cockpit, cabin, and flight controls were consumed by fire. A portion of the tail boom, with the horizontal stabilizers attached, was embedded upright in a tree adjacent to the main wreckage. The aftmost portion of the tail boom, with the vertical fin and tail rotor, was found about 15 feet from the tail boom section.

The engine case showed no evidence of uncontained failure. The first and second stage compressor blades had no evidence of foreign object debris (FOD) ingestion. Two blades from the third stage compressor wheel had fractured near their respective root ends and were not present. The remainder of the third stage compressor blades were present but exhibited damage primarily on their trailing edges. For the fourth, fifth, and six stage compressor wheels, all blades were fractured near their root ends and were not present. The impeller inducer exhibited evidence of hard body FOD ingestion.

The wreckage was recovered and retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell 
Registration: N13AT
Model/Series: 206 B
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Commuter air carrier (135)
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: TIST, 24 ft msl 
Observation Time: 14:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 4 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 29.4°C /17.2°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 5500 ft AGL 
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 12 knots / , 80°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 8 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.02 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: St. Thomas, USVI (STT) 
Destination: St Thomas, CB

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 18.354444,-65.027778

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email You can also call the NTSB Response Operations Center at 844-373-9922 or 202-314-6290.

Maria Isabel Rodriguez-Van Heurck

From left, Neisher Zahn, Tyler and Daniel Yannone at the St. Thomas Reformed Church.

Tyler Yannone
October 31, 2002 - February 15, 2021

Tyler Dawson Yannone tragically passed away Monday afternoon on February 15, 2021, he went to be with his heavenly father along with his parents Daniel Yannone and Neisha Zahn at the age of 18.

He was born in St. Thomas Virgin Islands on October 31, 2002. Tyler was a miracle since birth. He had a strong passion for the Lord, and he was devoted to his church family. He enjoyed many things like outdoor adventures, scuba diving with his dad, and sailboat camping with friends. Tyler had a fondness for everything astronautical. He went to many space camps and learned so much about the stars in the sky and had a star named for his girlfriend AnaPia. He was set to graduate in May 2021 and he was going to continue his education at Embry Riddle in Florida to become a professional pilot. His dream was to return to St. Thomas Virgin Islands and open his own charter flight business. He was an avid photographer and was always up-to-date with the latest technology gadgets.

Tyler was preceded in death by his maternal grandfather Ronnie Zahn.

He is survived by paternal grandparents Richard and Mary Yannone, aunt Lisa and uncle Paul Rosati, uncle Tony and aunt Kit Yannone, and aunt Michele and uncle Ryan Nespeca. Maternal grandmother Lana Zahn, uncle Kyle and Amy Zahn, and cousins, Alan and Allie Zahn, Rachel and Kleat Smith, and Nick Zahn.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to St. Thomas Reformed Church.

Neisha Zahn
April 1, 1968 - February 15, 2021

Neisha Kay Zahn 52, tragically passed away Monday afternoon on February 15, 2021, along with her husband Daniel Yannone and son Tyler Yannone.

Neisha is resting with her heavenly father now.

Neisha was born in Lubbock Texas on April 1 of 1968.  She grew up at Buffalo Springs Lake, attended Roosevelt High School and graduated Texas Tech University with an accounting degree. She arrived in St. Thomas in 1991 and married Daniel Yannone in 1994, whom she met at Club Z.  She had many jobs before she opened Beep Business in 1995. Later she opened a boutique called Nolas on the island. Neisha is an active member of the St. Thomas Reformed Church and attends Buffalo Community Church when visiting Lubbock. She has been a great comfort to her mom since the passing of her father. Neisha’s soft spirit and loving presence will be missed by many.
She was preceded in death by her father Ronnie Zahn. Paternal grandparents Mille & Pete Zahn. Maternal grandparents Earl and Johnny Dawson.

Survived by her mother Lana Zahn, brother Kyle Zahn and wife Amy, nephew Alan Zahn and wife Allie, niece Rachel and husband Kleat Smith, nephew Nick Zahn, and her half-sister Gay Lynn Lee. Along with other numerous Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. Neisha was always drawn to the water.   

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Saint Thomas Reformed church or Buffalo Community Church.

Daniel Yannone
March 13, 1966 - February 15, 2021

Daniel R. Yannone 54, tragically died alongside his wife Neisha and son Tyler on Monday, February 15th, 2021. 

Daniel is now resting in eternal peace with our Lord.

Daniel was born in Youngstown Ohio on March 13th, 1966.  Though he was born and raised in Ohio, Daniel resided in St. Thomas for the past 30 years and considered the island his home, and everyone he encountered to be part of his extended family.  Daniel and Neisha were both very passionate about and committed to the community which they supported through a variety of endeavors.  They were proud owners of Beep Business Services, involved members of St. Thomas Reformed Church, engaged parents at Antilles where Tyler was a graduating senior and generous contributors to a variety of social causes close to each of them.  Daniel's energy, passion for life, generous spirit and sense of humor will be sadly missed.

Daniel was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents Anthony and Carmel Yannone and his maternal grandparents Theresa and Ralph Argenziano. He is survived by his parents Richard and Mary Yannone, sister Lisa Rosati (Paul), brother Tony Yannone (Kit) and sister Michele Nespeca (Ryan), neices Victoria and Natalie Rosati and Tessa and Erin Yannone and nephew Brian Yannone.   

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Saint Thomas Reformed Church.

Maria Isabel Rodriguez-Van Heurck
May 21, 1965 - February 15, 2021

Maria Isabel Rodriguez-Van Heurck, 55, of St. Thomas, died tragically in a helicopter crash on Monday, February 15, 2021.

Pending arrangements are under the care of Dan Hurley Home for Funerals and Cremation Centers of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix.

V.I. Fire Services Director Daryl A. George, Sr. was flanked Wednesday by representatives from a range of first responder agencies that he said mounted a coordinated search and rescue effort. 

A brief press conference from V.I. Fire Services Wednesday detailed the coordinated response effort that took about two days to recover the victims of Monday’s fatal helicopter crash on St. Thomas.

Fire Services Director Daryl A. George, Sr. said a collaboration of crews from Emergency Medical Services, St. Thomas Rescue, the V.I. Police Department, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and the V.I. Port Authority’s Fire and Rescue division helped establish a joint incident command center that helped responders clear a path to the crash site, near the Botany Bay preserve.

Fire Services initially received a call from Emergency 911 at approximately 3:15 p.m. on Monday about the crash and sent out its first responding unit from Tango Company, with more from the Echo and Hotel companies joining in after additional reports came in at 3:16 p.m. about heavy smoke coming from the area.

Crews of five were sent into “heavy, dense” vegetation, which George said later was cleared by St. Thomas Rescue volunteers with chainsaws, to locate the crash site. The site was found within 30 minutes, and fire teams began to extinguish the fire they found, afterward searching for victims. Four were found, identified by George Wednesday as pilot Maria Rodriguez and passengers Daniel Yanonne, Neisha Zahn and Tyler Yannone.

“Earlier reports stated there were five victims, so the crews continued to search,” George said. “After a long process of trying to determine if there was a fifth member, it was determined there were only four passengers at the airport.”

With VIPA updating the NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration with information and waiting for guidance and approval to “retrieve” the victims, first responders suspended their efforts when darkness came as conditions in the area became unsafe.

George said that at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, crews were once again back at the scene, with recovery completed at approximately 9:47 a.m. after the Justice Department’s Medical Examiner and team transported the victims to Schneider Regional Medical Center.

Operating within a close-knit community, George said all responding this week were touched by the tragedy and offered condolences to the families and loved ones involved.

Tuesday, Rodriguez’s daughter and manager of Caribbean Buzz Helicopters Charlotte Van Heurck issued a statement on behalf of the company, whose team is “devastated by this accident and the subsequent loss of life.”

“Extensive research will be needed to learn exactly what caused the accident. Right now, we are focused on supporting the families of those lost,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the family of the passengers onboard during the accident that occurred yesterday, we cannot provide any further details at this time.”

Rodriguez was remembered by her daughter as a lifelong St. Thomas resident with more than 25 years of flight experience, who was extensively familiar with the aircraft, area, and flight-related conditions. She is survived by her husband and two children.

Wednesday, Antilles Head of School Liz Morrison also took time to reflect on Tyler Yannone, who was a member of the school’s Class of 2021.

“Tyler was a really kind, joyful, thoughtful, and genuine young man. I loved his passion for flying and the way that he was so authentic. Adolescence can be a messy time characterized by self-doubt and insecurity, but I never saw that in Tyler. He talked to everyone and was just as comfortable with adults as he was with his peers. He loved his parents and he loved life,” Morrison said.

“I admired the way he made a conscious decision to see the good in every situation and in all people. Every interaction with him left me feeling more positive and optimistic. I love the energy of people like that,” she added. “Throughout this challenging year of managing school during a pandemic, Tyler came to school every day with a positive attitude just grateful for the opportunity. He was certainly a model for all to follow.”

Students have also shared stories about their classmate’s character, she said.

“He wasn’t just a good, loyal friend. He took the time to talk to everyone,” Morrison said. “He took the time to talk to our younger Lower School students. He took the time to care about others in genuine ways. It was never fake or for show. It was because he cared. It is a rare human that is as kind and thoughtful as Tyler.”

Neisha Zahn (with Archie, the dog), Tyler Yannone and Daniel Yannone 

The St. Thomas Reformed Church has revealed the identities of the family of three who died during a helicopter crash at Botany Bay in St. Thomas Monday afternoon.

The church, which also said the family were members of its congregation, revealed the family to be Daniel Yannone and Neisha Zahn, and their son Tyler Yannone, who was a senior at Antilles School in St. Thomas. The church revealed the identities in a post on Facebook.

The other person on the helicopter, the pilot, has been revealed as Maria Rodriquez. Country singer Kenny Chesney published a heartfelt tribute to the deceased Rodriquez on his Facebook page.

"Tyler belonged to our church, to our XYG youth group; he and his parents Daniel & Neisha belonged and served this church and community in countless, unselfish ways; friends to so many," wrote the St. Thomas Reformed Church pastor, who was only identified as Jeff. "On this eve of Ash Wednesday, where we remember our mortality, I ask you all to join our faith community in prayer for Daniel, Neisha, Tyler and Maria (beloved pilot who many called “friend.”)"

The family, originally from Youngstown, Ohio, was the proprietor of Beep Business, a St. Thomas customs brokerage.

Rodriquez was an experienced pilot who owned Caribbean Buzz Helicopters. In 2018 Rodriguez earned the Pilot of the Year award from Helicopter Association International for her work in hurricane relief efforts following Irma and Maria the previous year. After Irma, Rodriguez flew countless support and relief missions, doing the same after Maria - according to HAI, once for 28 days straight. Rodriguez was well-known on St. Thomas, and because of her work came into contact with several high-profile individuals. She once flew the Obamas, and country singer Kenny Chesney counts her as a close friend.

The Consortium reported Monday night that four people had succumbed to injuries in the crash, which was confirmed today by Gov't House Communications Director, Richard Motta, during the administration's Covid-19 response update. The call came in to the 911 Emergency Call Center just after 3:00 p.m.

According to two people with knowledge of the search and rescue effort, emergency personnel resumed their work to recover the bodies early Tuesday after visibility diminished Monday night. Today, Mr. Motta confirmed that the bodies were recovered, though he wasn't clear on when. 

The response included a number of local and federal agencies. On the local side were the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), the V.I. Fire Service, the V.I. Port Authority and the V.I. Police Department. On the federal side, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board were present. St. Thomas Rescue was on site as well.

It has not yet been shared what caused the helicopter to go down.

Local officials late Monday and early Tuesday shared condolences. Lieutenant Governor Tregenza Roach, who is serving as acting governor while Governor Albert Bryan is away on a personal matter, said, “As the entire community tries to process this painful loss, I pray for comfort and strength for the families, friends, and loved ones of the passengers. The loss of these lives is so deeply felt, especially during a time when we are taking such measures to protect life during the ongoing pandemic which we face,”  he said.

He added, “I am extremely grateful for the collective response of emergency response teams who are to be commended and recognized for their efforts.” 

According to Mr. Roach, Governor Bryan expressed his condolences to the families impacted by Monday's unfortunate incident.  

Senate President Donna-Frett-Gregory stated, "We commend the efforts of the first responders, as this tragic event highlights the importance of providing them the resources needed to respond appropriately to emergencies.

“May the departed rest in peace, and may the families and friends be comforted and granted solace. May those who responded to the scene be given the strength needed to process what was faced and may our community lift them all in collective prayer.”

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett said, “I was deeply devastated to hear of yesterday’s helicopter crash in Botany Bay that claimed precious lives, including a family of 3. One of the passengers was a senior in my youngest son’s class at Antilles School and had a bright, beautiful future ahead of him.

“I offer my sincere condolences and prayers to the family members, loved ones and friends of each of the individuals that was onboard. This is a horrific tragedy that no one should have to face. I’d like to thank our local public servants, including St. Thomas Rescue, Director Daryl George and the V.I. Fire Service, the V.I. Police Department, and VITEMA for their courageous service to the people of the Virgin Islands.

“On behalf of my staff, my family and myself, our thoughts and fervent prayers for comfort, strength and peace are with the families and loved ones of the victims of this tragic incident.”

The death of pilot and helicopter crash victim, Maria Rodriguez is being described as a major blow to residents of Anegada here in the British Virgin Islands.

Rodriguez is one of four persons who perished in a helicopter crash in the neighboring US Virgin Islands on Monday afternoon. The other three deceased are all reportedly related to each other — a father, wife, and their son.

According to Ninth District Representative, Vincent Wheatley, Rodriguez is a friend of Anegada who was closely connected to the sister island for more than two decades.

Wheatley told our news center that after the September 2017 hurricanes devastated the BVI, Rodriguez spearheaded relief efforts for the sister island — using her helicopter to transport supplies to Anegada.

“I know she will be greatly and dearly missed by every single member of the Anegada community. The relief [supplies] came straight from Puerto Rico and she used her helicopter at no cost,” Minister Wheatley explained.

Rodriguez was employed to the USVI’s Caribbean Buzz Helicopters which offers a range of travel and leisure helicopter services.

According to the St Thomas Source, Rodriguez was piloting the helicopter at the time of Monday’s crash.

She along with the now-deceased passengers reportedly left the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and crashed in the Botany Bay area. The cause of the fatal crash is not yet clear.



  1. Daniel, Nisha and Tyler Yanonne.

    1. My sweet cousin and family. Prayers to my aunt and other family members, we love you.

    2. So truly sorry for your loss.

  2. Sweet Bibi. It won't be the same without you on the Rock cousin. Saying prayers for my dear uncle, aunt and cousins. This is a reality check on how precious the gift of life truly is and how, in just an instant, it can be gone. ❤️ Love you always and forever

    1. So deeply sorry for your loss. Tragic loss. May you find peace knowing they are in a better place and they are looking down on you smiling every time you think of them.

  3. Apparently Maria was a very experienced pilot so something bad had to have happened mechanically. It wasn't weather related. Such a tragic loss for all of their families. Kenny may write a song about this.

    1. The vast majority of incidents are pilot error, whether the pilot was "very experienced" or not.

    2. Engine failure in this particular accident...

  4. We had the pleasure of meeting her in January for two flights and became fast friends. Her wit and warmth was immediately evident. She'll truly be missed.

  5. Weather history at Cyril E King Airport (TIST) from scrolling 3-day:
    Local Time is AST (UTC-4)

    Day/ AST / Wind / Vis / WX / Sky / T / Dp/ Rh/ Altimeter
    15 14:53 E 14 10.00 FewClds FEW055 84 63 48% 30.06
    15 15:53 E 15 10.00 ParCldy FEW040/SCT050/SCT060 83 64 53% 30.06

    1. Here's the photo

  6. Photo taken in January shows that N13AT had inflatable flotation equipment on the skids.

  7. My family owned a Bell 206, and I got my commercial and IFR Rotorctaft in it. A very good ship, stable to hover, good power from the Allision C20-B. However, all my "Autos" were done light with 2 people aboard, and of course we always had power available at the bottom. In real life, at low altitude, with a heavy ship, you just get one chance, and so even an experienced rotor pilot could have their hands full...its so tempting to pull colletive early as the ground/water come rushing can never get those rotor RPM back.....RIP....sorry for your loss....I'm sure she tried her best....

  8. Boy, this is a sad one. Really hate reading about accidents like this. RIP.

  9. With fire reported after landing upright, checked to see if this 1981 production helicopter had been upgraded to a crash resistant fuel system. Bell says it was.

    Sad that fire was still a factor, but at least the available upgrade was put on all of the 206's made by Bell, years before the current awareness.

    In a 2017 news article, Bell Helicopter stated:

    “We have not manufactured a new design without CRFS (crash resistant fuel system) since the early 1980s and converted all existing production helicopters to CRFS by 1991."

  10. Only thing I can think of is a bird strike?