Saturday, March 13, 2021

Bell 206B JetRanger, N161BH: Accident occurred March 13, 2021 in Laton, Fresno County, California

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; Fresno, California
Trinkle Agricultural Flying

 Location: Laton, CA 
Accident Number: WPR21LA130
Date & Time: March 13, 2021, 13:55 Local
Registration: N161BH
Aircraft: Bell 206B
Injuries: 1 Minor
Flight Conducted Under: Part 137: Agricultural

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Bell
Registration: N161BH
Model/Series: 206B 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Agricultural aircraft (137)
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KHJO,249 ft msl
Observation Time: 13:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 7 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 19°C /4°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 10 knots / , 300°
Lowest Ceiling: None 
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.24 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point: 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Minor 
Aircraft Damage: Substantial
Passenger Injuries:
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 1 Minor 
Latitude, Longitude: 36.432943,-119.68823 (est)

A helicopter pilot considered himself lucky Saturday afternoon, able to walk away from the wreckage of his crashed aircraft after clipping power lines while spraying a field near Laton in rural Fresno County.

Mark Trinkle said he was flying a Bell 206 JetRanger, built as an agriculture sprayer, when it went down just before 2 p.m. near South Clovis and East Blanchard avenues, just north of downtown Laton.

Trinkle was applying herbicide and making his last pass on the field, which the pilot said is in a tricky area because of the multiple power lines that run across it. He said he went underneath one set, but hit another.

He “clipped it and it threw me into these ones,” he said, “which then brought the helicopter down.”

“I got out and made sure the power was off and fuel and everything was off. Just crawled right out. Lucky to be alive.”

No one else was onboard. He praised the helicopter’s design for helping him avoid injury, other than a scratch on the back of his hand.

An ambulance crew checked him out to make sure he was fine.

“The helicopter itself is very reliable and safe,” Trinkle said, noting he also was wearing a harness and helmet. “As you can see, the cockpit is totally torn up and I’m fine.”

A pilot for 16 years and a crop-duster since 2009, it was his first helicopter crash. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, a crew member on a P-3 Orion. The crash and survival training he received in the service helps remind him of the dangers.

Multiple power lines were knocked down, but the poles remained standing. A PG&E crew was called to the scene.

An outage was listed in the area on the PGE alerts map, but it was unclear if it was related to the aircraft incident. Estimation restoration was 4:45 p.m.

February 6, 2019:

Last Friday, agricultural pilot Mark Trinkle went out to fertilize a field. 

Trinkle says, he’s flown it the same way the past four to five years, no problems, until…

“This year, one of the neighbors was, was mad enough to, supposedly shoot at me,” Trinkle said.

Upon landing, Trinkle discovered a bullet hole through the plane’s spreader, which holds fertilizer.

The spreader, only about 7 feet below where Trinkle was seated.

“I love what I do, and, you know, wires, any kind of obstructions in the field, that’s all hazards,” Trinkle said. “But shooting, has never crossed my mind.”

Saturday, Tulare Sheriff Ag Crimes detectives tell us, they acted on witness information regarding suspect 55-year-old Roy Vander Velde, of Visalia. 

“Had made threats of shooting the plane down, for scaring his cattle,” Detective Bryan De Haan said.

Officials serving a warrant at Vander Velde’s home, which detectives say, was next to the farm where Trinkle was flying.

“Something to this caliber, it’s, it’s a pretty serious crime,” De Haan said.

Trinkle, a husband and father of three, now back in the sky.

He says, it’s easy to make flight adjustments, and the whole situation could’ve been resolved, differently.

“Don’t go to the extreme to shoot somebody, you know,” Trinkle said.

That suspect is facing several charges, including shooting at an occupied aircraft and attempted homicide.

Crop-dusters keep flying after tragedy

Posted Jun 19, 1999 at 12:01 AM
Updated Jan 7, 2011 at 11:22 PM
TRACY, California  -- Members of the Trinkle family are honoring their fathers this year by carrying on a family tradition.

Last July, Eric Trinkle, owner/operator of Trinkle and Boys Agricultural Flying, died after a plane crash.

Trinkle’s family soon got back to work, picking up where Eric Trinkle left off.

Today the business is run by Trinkle’s wife, Ann, younger brother John and son Chris.

Chris Trinkle never had any doubt that he would be involved with the business, and looked forward to learning from his father.

“It was going to be my dad, myself and my uncle as partners,“ he said, adding that the sudden loss of his father pushed him to learn more about the business in a short time.

Chris has been working at the airstrip since age 8, doing everything from clearing tumbleweeds off the airstrip to loading chemicals and guiding planes from the ground.

Agricultural flying is nothing less than a family tradition for the Trinkles. The late Carl Trinkle Sr. and Frank Haley began crop-dusting in the Tracy and Vernalis areas about 50 years ago, soon after Trinkle left the Army Air Corps, where he trained American and Chinese pilots during World War II.

“I don’t know the story about how he got into crop-dusting, but basically he saw a need and filled it,” John Trinkle said.

The elder Trinkle came to Tracy right after the war. In 1953, he bought the small airfield along Highway 33 and began his crop-dusting business with George Boys.

“I had invested in the company with my back wages,” said Boys, who still works at the airfield. Haley started his own business shortly afterward. All four of Trinkle’s sons took up flying.

Youngest brother Mark Trinkle still runs his own crop-dusting businesses in Kingsburg, just south of Fresno. Carl Jr. has operated his own local agricultural flying business, and John Trinkle was planning to join his brother Eric shortly before the accident.

Eric Trinkle was the chief pilot and owner of the business, and John stepped in right after the accident, along with older brother Carl and longtime friend Rich Paulson.

Ann Trinkle credits John with helping carry the family through the first few months.

“We knew that’s what Eric would want, so we did it,” Ann said. “At the beginning, it was really tough, because John had to do all of the flying, and he had another job at the time. In time, it got easier.”

John added that business has been steady over the past year. “The customers have been great in supporting us,” he said.

“Eventually it will be Chris and myself as partners. Ann’s the principal now.”

The company still flies three Ag-CAT single-engine biplanes, and now that Chris, 27, is ready to obtain his commercial pilot’s license, the family business is gaining a solid foundation once again.

“He’s not that old, but he’s very capable,” Ann said. “He’s taken on the challenge and has done a good job. I’m very proud of him.”

The season is slow right now, but John Trinkle expects it to pick up in a few weeks as tomatoes, beans and alfalfa start growing.

“The bugs will come out and start eating on them. That’s when we go to work.”

That one of their family should die in an accident on the job is tragic, but it is also a risk with which all agricultural pilots are familiar.

Eric Trinkle’s plane crashed after he ran into a power line while spraying a tomato field along South Banta Road.

John Trinkle recalled how Haley, his father’s former business partner, also died in the early 1970s in a midair collision with another crop-duster.

Agricultural pilots like wide-open fields encompassing hundreds of acres. Fields in the Tracy area are getting smaller all the time.

“We’re always avoiding obstacles,” John Trinkle said. “We’ll do 50-acre triangles, with wires all around them, trees and cellular-phone towers.”

Added Chris: “It makes you have to think about a lot of things all at once.”

Eric Trinkle started in the business in 1968 after serving on a crew for a Navy reconnaissance patrol plane in Vietnam.

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