NTSB official: Agency dedicated to ‘a very thorough’ investigation into helicopter crash that killed 6
LOGAN COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesman Peter Knudson sat down Thursday afternoon and spoke with WSAZ at length about the investigation into the deadly helicopter crash that killed six people in Logan County.
The Bell UH-1B model, often referred to as the Huey, crashed early Wednesday evening on state Route 17 along Blair Mountain. Another NTSB investigator said the victims were three pilots qualified to fly the Huey, as well as the wife of another pilot who was not aboard, and two passengers.
Workers at Logan County airport said Thursday MARPAT Aviation, which has a hanger located at the airport, was operating Huey tour flights on Wednesday.
NTSB investigators say the crash site is about 3.7 miles northeast of Logan County Airport where the flight originated. The chopper crashed around 4:57 p.m. after being in the air just a few minutes.
The NTSB also reported that the route of the deadly flight was different from tour paths that had been flown earlier in the day. They also said it was the last flight of the day.
Knudson said an investigation team arrived at the site around 3 p.m. Thursday to begin the first phase of the investigation. He said the team will be focused on documenting perishable evidence during the next three to five days. That includes documenting the entire site to see if investigators can determine the angle of flight before the crash and determine if there are witnesses.
“We are very interested in speaking with any witnesses or anyone ... with relevant information to the investigation,” Knudson said, saying that witnesses can email investigators at firstname.lastname@example.org. “We like to say more information is always better.”
Investigators say the wreckage will be moved to a facility in Atlanta for closer investigation.
Knudson said investigators will interview people with MARPAT Aviation which was giving rides to people from the airport, as well as examining air traffic control communications.
After the initial investigation is complete, investigators will write up a preliminary report that will outline the facts that were gathered. He said the goal is to have that within about two weeks and then doing a more extensive investigation into the pilot, the helicopter and the operating environment.
He explained that the entire process can take 12 to 24 months to complete, saying being thorough is the ultimate goal.
“We are committed to a very thorough investigation,” he said. “These do take 12 to 24 months to complete, but we want to make sure we get it right.”
NTSB officials said in a release Thursday evening that the Huey was not equipped with a cockpit voice recorder, or “black box,” nor was it required to be. The Huey dates back in service as long ago as military operations during the Vietnam War.
Knudson said investigators will approach the investigation in three different ways: the pilot, the machine and its operating environment.
They also will look at the pilot’s ability to safely operate a flight, including the pilot’s medical records.
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