Sunday, August 01, 2021

Robinson R66 Turbine, N7000J: Fatal accident occurred August 01, 2021 in Colusa, 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 traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Sacramento, California
Robinson Helicopter Company; Torrance, California 
Rolls Royce; Indianapolis, Indiana 

William B. Vann 
Location: Colusa, California 
Accident Number: WPR21FA300
Date & Time: August 1, 2021, 12:51 Local
Registration: N7000J
Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On August 1, 2021, about 1251 Pacific daylight time, a Robinson R66 helicopter, N7000J, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Colusa, California. The pilot and 3 passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A witness, who was driving south on a highway about 0.5 miles east of the accident site, reported that he noticed a helicopter flying on an easterly heading about 50 to 100 ft above ground level (agl), and initially thought it may have been a crop duster. The witness stated that the helicopter was initially straight and level, however, suddenly made a sharp left turn. The witness briefly lost sight of the helicopter due to trees and when he reestablished visual contact, he observed the helicopter descend into the ground.

Recorded Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) showed that at 1207, the helicopter had departed Willows, California, and flew toward the foothills which bordered the western edge of the valley. The ADS-B data showed that the helicopter turned south while over Elk Creek, California, and overflew Lodoga, and Stonyford, California, before a turn to the east was initiated. The helicopter continued on an easterly heading for about 12 minutes, and then turned to a southeasterly heading. The helicopter remained on a southeasterly heading for about 2 minutes, and then initiated a left turn to an easterly heading, about 0.7 miles west of the accident. The ADS-B data contained no altitude data for the entire flight. 

Examination of the accident site revealed that the helicopter impacted open terrain on a heading of about 090°.

Wreckage debris was scatted within a 360 ft long and 392 ft wide area as depicted in figure 2. All major structural components of the helicopter were located throughout the debris area. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Registration: N7000J
Model/Series: R66
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: VMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: KOVE,190 ft msl
Observation Time: 12:53 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 23 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 33°C /14°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 4 knots / , 240°
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 30 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: None
Departure Point: Willows, CA (KWLW)
Destination: Williams, CA

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 3 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 4 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 39.296803,-122.03939 (est)

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.

A prominent Colusa County almond farmer and his wife have been identified among the four people killed in Sunday's helicopter crash.

Bill Vann, 67, the owner of Vann Family Orchards, and Susie Vann, 60, died in the crash along with two friends, according to a statement released by the family.

The couple were from Williams, the Colusa County Sheriff's Office said. The office identified the other two people on board the helicopter as Bobbie Lee Keaton, 62, also from Williams, and Charles Thomas Wilson, 71, from Rocklin.

Bill partnered with his brother Garnett Vann in 1973 to farm 40 acres of wheat and the business later expanded to almonds, walnuts and pistachios. The company now farms more than 17,000 acres in the Sacramento Valley, contracts with more than 100 growers and employs more than 200 people around the region, according to the family.

“Bill was a hands-on partner who loved both farming and business. For him, being actively involved in every step of the operation made him the happiest,” Garnett Vann said in a news release. “His loss is a shock to our family, our employees and our fellow growers. Despite this tragic accident, the business will continue to move forward as we have been planning for the future for quite some time.”

Charles Thomas Wilson was known by loved ones as "Chuck." His wife Beverly told KCRA 3 he worked in highway improvement. She says they recently moved to Rocklin from Nevada City to be safer from the wildfires.

Christopher Wilson, the couple's neighbor, said Beverly was home alone on Monday afternoon when she received news of her husband's death, around 24 hours after the crash.

"She did come over right away after she found out," Wilson told KCRA 3. "She said I was the first one she came to because she knew we were home and she just needed to talk to somebody."

Wilson described Chuck as "really nice, really talkative, really polite, and just a really nice guy."

"Hugs and touching your neighbors and shaking hands is something we couldn't do during COVID and today was the first time I actually gave Beverly a hug," Wilson said. "It felt good to hug her, but I wish I didn't have to hug her for this reason."

The helicopter crashed Sunday around 1:15 p.m. in a field near Highway 45 at Reservation Road, right by the Sacramento River. The Federal Aviation Administration said the helicopter was a Robinson R66.

Deputies and Sacramento River Fire personnel found the passengers still inside the helicopter and declared all four dead at the scene, the sheriff's office said.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating.

A flag could be seen flying at half-mast outside Vann Family Orchards in Colusa on Monday.

Richard Waycott, president and chief executive officer of the Almond Board of California, called the Vann family "a leader in the California almond business" and said the family has grown the industry's stature.

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to all Vann family members,” he said in a statement.

Bill and Susie Vann are survived by four children and seven grandchildren.

The family is planning funeral services.


  1.,P96_MAKE_NAME,P96_FATAL_FLG:02-AUG-21,ROBINSON'49.1%22N+122%C2%B002'31.4%22W/@39.2995014,-122.0440046,2452m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m6!3m5!1s0x0:0x0!7e2!8m2!3d39.2969584!4d-122.0420491?hl=en,-122.0339208,3a,62y,266.55h,80.29t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sPrNULdbXMafm4S5uEAXCRw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en (closest street view to the accident)

  2. Heartbreaking

    My family will pray for the Vanns.

    I’m so sorry

  3. I’ve known Mr Vann over the years, he had my admiration as a fine, hard working and kind man. We shared the joys of flight in conversation several times. We flew together twice in my airplane. I spoke to him on a few occasions about helicopters, I’m a retired Army helo pilot with most of my 8800 hours in Apache’s and Blackhawks. I always thought Mr Vann was a professional pilot, skilled and proficient.

    Looking at the Flightaware graph, his airspeed was spot on, at no point did he approach excessive speed. The altitude representation is wrong (60,000 feet), as for why I don’t know. The weather on the day of the flight was clear, VFR as I made a flight from Woodland which is close to Willows. I don’t see any reason where spacial disorientation could be a factor. Looking at the speeds and flight path, it’s indicative of utilizing the auto pilot. There is nothing I see to make any sort of guess, hopefully the NTSB will publish an accurate report. Until then, any speculation is purely that, speculation.

    My sincere condolences to the Vann family, and to all those affected by this tragedy. The very best people are taken away from us much to early, and the Vanns are no exception.

    1. Looks like there were a lot of wires in the area and he was descending for the last 4 minutes of the flight - might have clipped one?


  4. Lots of Robinson Helicopters seem to crash more frequently than others.
    Will never fly in one myself!

    1. Robinson looks over-represented in crash statistics because they are so plentiful, the manner in which some are used, and less qualified and/or diligent piloting in some operations.

    2. Wire strike .Nothing slows down an aircraft faster than a wire strike.