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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: Helicopter Crashes in Louisiana Swamp


The S-76C++, operated by Petroleum Helicopters Inc. (PHI) in Lafayette, La., crashed on its way to an offshore Shell oil platform. The helicopter went down seven minutes after leaving its operating base in Amelia to repair hurricane damages to an offshore platform. Six passengers and the two pilots died in that swampy terrain on Jan. 4, 2008 about 100 miles southwest of New Orleans. The sole survivor of the Terrebonne Parish, La. helicopter crash is in stable condition and, as of this writing, off ventilation.

According to Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, there were no radio reports of problems from the crew before the crash and the prevailing weather was reported to have been 10 miles visibility and scattered clouds at 1,000 feet.

The U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center picked up the electronic distress signal after the Sikorsky crashed. They alerted PHI and the U.S. Coast Guard station in New Orleans and relayed the tail number and GPS coordinates. The Coast Guard launched an HH-65C, which rescued the sole survivor.

The cockpit voice recorder was recovered and the audio was downloaded at Fort Rucker, Ala. before crews sent it to a lab in Washington D.C. The flight data recorder was also recovered and FAA, PHI, Sikorsky, Turbomeca (the engine manufacturer) and NTSB investigations have begun. The Terrebonne Sheriff’s Office assisted in the initial investigation.

PHI is independently owned and has provided helicopter transportation for more than 50 years. The company also performs rescue missions. Those killed in the crash were: Pilot Thomas E. Ballenger of Eufaula, Ala. Vyarl W. Martin of Hurst, Texas; Allen Boudreaux, of Ama, La.; Andrew Moricio and Ezequiel Cantu of Morgan City, La.; Randy Tarpley of Jonesville, La.; Jorey A. Rivero of Bridge City, La; and Charles W. Nelson of Pensacola, Fla. The injured man is 28-year-old Steven Yeltin of Floresville, Texas.

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