ELBA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The National Transportation Safety Board has released more information regarding the April 26 Mercy Flight crash, in which Mercy Flight pilot James Sauer and Bell pilot Stewart Dietrick died.
The report said the instructional flight was a “flight review,” with multiple reviews scheduled throughout the day. Sauer’s flight review was the second flight of the day. The helicopter was reportedly in the air from 11:10 a.m., until its crash around 1 p.m., performing multiple maneuvers in that time.
The helicopter reached as high as 2,600 feet mean sea level (msl), ascending and descending, while completing maneuvers. Prior to the crash, the helicopter was last reported at 1,975 feet msl; it is said to have hit the earth at 1,220 feet msl.
The report also detailed eyewitness accounts:
Several eyewitnesses observed and heard the helicopter flying overhead before to the accident. One stated that he observed the helicopter ‘almost stationary’ after it flew over, and then as it started to fly away, he heard a loud ‘bang’, and the helicopter began to descend out of control. An additional witness stated that the helicopter was hovering before it ‘fell apart’ with the fuselage falling separately and another witness stated she did not see the helicopter but heard what sounded like an engine making a ‘whooshing’ sound, then ‘three loud and rapid cracks’ in succession. She further stated that she heard the helicopter impact the ground and heard the rotor blades striking the ground rapidly.”NTSB Accident Report
Though the preliminary report did not provide specifics on why the crash may have happened, it did give details on the site investigation.
The vehicle hit electrical wires just before crashing. A small fire was extinguished following the crash, which had a wreckage path about 1,900 feet long. All four main rotor blades were separated from the rotor head, and all of the blades were recovered.
The tail boom was found about 390 feet from the wreckage and the tail rotor shaft was about 1,620 feet away. According to the report, the tail rotor shaft “exhibited an angled fracture line consistent with main rotor blade contact.”
Both engines were found in the main wreckage. Other pieces of the helicopter were found with various damages. Multiple electronic recording devices were recovered from the wreckage and retained. The remaining wreckage was also retained, for future examination.
More details can be seen in the full report below.