Frisco helicopter crash safety report released
July 13, 2015
A preliminary report detailing the results of the National Transportation Safety Board's on-site investigation into the July 3 fatal Flight For Life helicopter crash was released Thursday morning.
Jennifer Rodi, senior air safety investigator with NTSB, said her team had finished compiling pieces of the wreckage and sending off evidence for lab testing. She said they submitted recorders found in the wreckage, but many suffered significant thermal damage. They also interviewed several witnesses of the crash.
"We don't have a definitive ruling or position on it right now," she said.
According to the report, an Airbus AS350 B3e helicopter crashed in the upper-west parking lot of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco. Air Methods — the operators of Flight For Life — told investigators that the helicopter was flying to the American Spirit of Adventure Boy Scout Camp near Gypsum, Colorado, for a public-relations mission just before the crash.
The aircraft took off from the hospital's helicopter pad, ascending about 100 feet, according to one witness, before its descent.
"The helicopter continued to spin counterclockwise several times before it impacted a parking lot and an RV to the southwest of the Flight For Life hangar and helipad," the report noted. "The helicopter came to rest on its right side, was damaged by impact forces and was charred, melted and partially consumed by fire."
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The downed helicopter reportedly set fire to a nearby pickup truck, an RV and a camper, creating a large blaze that firefighters managed to quickly extinguish. The pilot, Patrick Mahany, was fatally injured in the crash. Two flight nurses were transported to Denver with serious injuries.
Flight nurse and paramedic Dave Repsher, 45, of Silverthorne, remains in critical condition with burn injuries. Flight nurse Matt Bowe, 32, of Frisco, is in fair condition.
Rodi said that as part of the investigation, her team would look into the severity of injuries and the survivability of the accident.
"We'll look at the survivable space during the impact sequence and the role that the impact fire may have had on the severity of the injuries," she said.
NTSB is also investigating the role the environment, or weather, may have had in the crash. According to the preliminary report, "visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident" — meaning that cloud height and visibility were acceptable for flight.
However, with a rainstorm that quickly blew in that afternoon, NTSB will still investigate that as a possible factor with the help of a meteorologist and the National Weather Service.
"A meterologist will look at the weather conditions," Rodi said. "There was nothing directly over the accident site, but there were wind gusts at the accident site … but, it's entirely too early to tell."
NTSB will also investigate the factor the aircraft may have had in the crash, including signs of mechanical failure or helicopter maintenance. They will look into the pilot's background and experience flying that aircraft, as well.
"With a case of this complexity, will be at least a year," she said of the investigation.
She added that NTSB does not plan to release any additional information prior to the development of a probable-cause statement.
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