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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rotorcraft Report: Maintenance Error Eyed in U.S. EMS Crash

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Investigators are searching for reasons why the rotor blades, hub and mast landed about 200 yards from the main wreckage of Air Evac Lifeteam Bell Helicopter 206L1 that crashed Aug. 31 near Greensburg, Ind.

The crash occurred at about 1320 local and in visual meteorological conditions. The pilot, flight nurse and paramedic on board were killed.

Investigators led by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board were told by witnesses that the aircraft appeared to takeoff without incident and then components separated from the aircraft in flight.

The NTSB said the main rotor blades remained attached to the hub, and one blade remained intact.

The accident flight departed at 1215 from Burney, Ind. with the intention of returning to its base in Rushville, Ind.

The crew had visited Burney to attend and provide company support for a local fund-raising event for the Burney fire station. No patient transport activity was associated with the flight to the fire station, or with the accident flight, according to the NTSB.

Witnesses reported that the helicopter appeared to depart the fire station without difficulty, the NTSB said. One witness recalled seeing the helicopter clear a set of high-tension power lines east of the departure point. Witnesses stated that they subsequently saw components separate from the aircraft in-flight.

The initial on-scene investigation revealed the helicopter came to rest about 1.2 mi northeast of the departure point. The main wreckage consisted of the fuselage, tail boom, and landing skids. The fuselage was consumed by a post impact fire. The tail boom and landing skids separated from the fuselage. The tail boom was located about 10 feet south of the fuselage, and the skids were located about 10 ft southwest of the fuselage.

The West Plains, Mo.-based company won approval from the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Transport Services in July; it suffered fatal crashes in December and June. Air Evac operates more than 100 helicopters in 13 states throughout the Midwest and South.

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