Medical helicopter pilot says he didn’t see power lines before crashing in Butler County: report
MILFORD TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WXIX) - The pilot of a medical helicopter that crashed while responding to a fatal vehicle accident in Butler County last month says he didn’t see the power lines before the main rotor blades hit them, according to a preliminary federal report.
The CareFlight pilot said he checked the weather, approved the flight, and departed for the accident scene between two pickup trucks at 4:28 a.m. on July 26 at U.S. 127 and Hamilton Eaton Road in Milford Township, states the report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
A southeastern Indiana woman was ejected from one of the pickup trucks and pronounced dead at the scene.
A second female passenger in the same truck was seriously injured, so CareFlight was summoned to fly her to a hospital, according to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
Just before 5 a.m., however, “the helicopter crashed while attempting to land at the scene,” the sheriff’s news release the day of the incident states.
According to the NTSB preliminary findings, the pilot contacted the fire department at the scene when he was about nine minutes out and asked for information about the site, according to the report.
The fire department reported that there were high voltage power lines on the south side of the landing zone.
As the pilot continued to the scene, he knew the winds were calm, he told investigators, according to the report, so he orbited the scene from the south to the north.
“The pilot made an approach for the south and was looking out for the powerlines but could not locate the wires,” the report reads.
“The pilot stated he did not think the wires would be in and around the landing zone. He stated that he was wearing night vision goggles and could see the tower but not the wires. Furthermore, he did not know which way the wires were running off the tower.
“The pilot used the landing light and moved it up and down to try and find the wires but could not locate them. He thought the wires were further out from the landing zone and not below the helicopter.”
As the helicopter descended, the main rotor blades contacted the wires and the helicopter fell about 30 to 50 feet from the ground, according to the report.
A Federal Aviation Administration inspector examined the helicopter after the crash and determined it struck the high voltage wires, severing one wire, and then landed hard.
All main rotor blades were snapped in half, and the main rotor gearbox and mounts were fractured.
The left engine was hanging off the engine motor mounts. The helicopter was resting on its left side with all its weight on one rotor blade that was buried in the ground. The stabilizer was bent and substantially damaged and the skids were impact damaged. The helicopter was retained for further examination
All three crew members on the CareFlight helicopter suffered non-life threatening injuries and were taken to an area hospital, according to Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer.
The federal report describes their injuries as “minor.”
Federal aviation officials are continuing to look into the helicopter crash.
The cause of the vehicle accident remains under investigation as well, by the Serious Traffic Accident Reconstruction Team (START) at the sheriff’s office.
“[W]hen they come in, they are guided in, usually by the fire department, to tell them where to land,” Sheriff Richard Jones said in an interview with FOX19 NOW the day of the crash.
“[I] don’t know if he didn’t see him. Our investigators have interviewed the people who were at the scene, the people in the helicopter [and] they interviewed witnesses. So, we’re gathering our information.”
Jones also told FOX19 NOW two cruisers were damaged in the helicopter crash, one by debris that shattered a window and another by power lines that fell on it.
No firefighters or deputies were injured.
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