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Friday, October 16, 2009

Prelim on Fatal HEMS Crash

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to probe the fatal accident of an emergency medical service (EMS) helicopter near Georgetown, SC on Sept. 25, 2009, issuing a preliminary report on the crash that killed the pilot, the flight nurse and a paramedic onboard the chopper. It marked the first fatal HEMS accident this year.

The Eurocopter AS-350 B2 (N417AE) helicopter EMS (HEMS) owned and operated by Omniflight Helicopters crashed at about 11:30 p.m. ET during while returning to home base after dropping off a patient in Charleston, SC about two hours earlier.

Twenty-three minutes after the helicopter departed Charleston, light rain began to fall.
Review of preliminary radar data provided by NOAA revealed that after passing LRO, the helicopter entered an area of convective activity and precipitation.

Weather reports for the area surrounding the accident site were not available, as the automated weather observation station (AWOS) at GGE had been out of service for approximately six weeks. However, witnesses who observed the helicopter just prior to the accident described its flight path as paralleling US Route 17, in the direction of GGE, in moderate to heavy rain.

Examination of the accident site and wreckage by NTSB investigators revealed visible scorching of the trees surrounding the main wreckage to an approximate height of 30 feet above the ground, and that the helicopter had impacted terrain in an approximate 60-degree nose down attitude.

Further examination revealed that the wreckage had come to rest inverted in sawdust and loose soil on a magnetic heading of 156 degrees, and a post-crash fire had had consumed the majority of the helicopter.

Evidence of unburned jet fuel also existed at the scene. The debris path was approximately 22 feet long and 39 feet wide, and a three-foot deep crater existed beneath the main wreckage.

All the major components of the helicopter were accounted for at the scene. Examination of the main wreckage revealed no evidence of any pre-impact failures or malfunctions of the engine, drivetrain, main rotor, tail rotor, or structure of the helicopter. Additionally, there was no indication of an in-flight fire.

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