Seven On Board, Including Five Americans, Fatally Injured
A Boeing BH-234 Chinook helicopter belonging to Columbia Helicopters of Aurora, OR, reportedly went down Monday in Peru, resulting in the fatal injury of five Americans and the Peruvian crew of two. The aircraft went down shortly after takeoff from an airport near the town of Pucallpa enroute to Tarapoto.
The New York Daily News reports that witnesses said they saw smoke issuing from the aircraft and that it lost control before impacting the ground. Local police commander Miguel Cardoso said in a phone interview with the Associated Press that it appeared that three people had jumped from the aircraft before impact because they had sustained multiple fractures.
Columbia Helicopters said the five Americans lost in the accident were employees of the company from "different parts of the country." They, along with the Peruvian personnel aboard, were identified in a company news release as:
- Dann Immel, Command Pilot (hometown: Gig Harbor, WA)
- Igor Castillo, Copilot (Peru)
- Edwin Cordova, Maintenance Crew Chief (Melbourne, FL)
- Luis Ramos, Aircraft Mechanic (Peru)
- Jaime Pickett, Aircraft Mechanic (Clarksville, TN)
- Darrel Birkes, Senior Load Manager (Peru)
- Leon Bradford, Load Manager (Santaquin, UT)
The Oregonian newspaper reports that the company has grounded the remaining six Chinooks in its fleet following the accident, including one that is reportedly operating in Afghanistan in support of the U.S. military. The company said that the aircraft are "on a safety stand-down" while they are inspected, and that they would be out of service "two or three days."
Three of the aircraft are reportedly in Papua, New Guinea. Another remains in Peru. Along with the one in Afghanistan, a sixth is in Oregon for maintenance.
The aircraft that went down was transporting a sling load carrying rigging for a oil drilling operation when it went down about five minutes after takeoff.
Michael Fahey, President of Columbia Helicopters, said in a statement "(A)s we grieve, we also immediately dispatched a management investigation team to Peru, and we will work closely with all authorities and witnesses to conduct a thorough investigation.”
The NTSB has sent a team of investigators to Pucallpa, Peru, to assist that government with its investigation of Monday's accident.
The board has designated senior air safety investigator, Paul Cox, as the U.S. Accredited Representative. He will be accompanied by two NTSB investigators with expertise in helicopter systems and operations, a representative from the FAA, and a representative from Columbia Helicopters. The team was expected to arrive in Peru Wednesday night.
The NTSB said the Comision de Investigacion de Accidentes de Aviacion (CIAA) Ministerio de Transportes y Comunicaciones – MTC of Peru will release all information concerning the investigation.
(Image provided by Columbia Helicopters)