Investigators Looking At Mechanical Failure, Possible Tail
Officials have released the
identities of the pilot and passenger who escaped serious injury
Thursday, when the medevac helicopter they were aboard crashed into
a rooftop helipad in Grand Rapids. We're also learning more about
the moments leading up to the accident.
The helo was operated by Aero-Med chief pilot Raymond Sampson,
61, accompanied by passenger Willard Elliott, 57. The Detroit
Free-Press reports Elliott is an FAA examiner, and the accident
flight was a commercial recurrency checkride.
As ANN reported, the Aero-Med
Sikorsky S-76 impacted the helipad atop the 11-story Spectrum
Health Butterworth Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids. Patients on
the seventh, eighth, and ninth floors were relocated to other
floors due to damage from the fire, water runoff, and fuel
The accident occurred during takeoff, not on landing as was
originally reported. After rising between 30 to 50 feet off the
roof, the Sikorsky yawed to the right and the pilot attempted to
bring the helicopter back down. The main rotor impacted the top of
an elevator shaft and the helo fell to the roof.
Sampson and Elliott were able to escape from the wreckage before
it burst into flames. The men were rescued by firefighters after
clinging to duct work several feet below the helipad to escape the
fire. Elliott was treated for minor injuries and released from
Butterworth Thursday evening. Sampson remained hospitalized in fair
condition Friday after suffering a collapsed lung.
Both men report hearing a "pop" before the chopper began to yaw
to the right. Sampson attempted to compensate for the action by
pushing the left pedal according to National Transportation Safety
Board Investigator Jim Silliman Friday.
Pieces of the main rotor scattered and flew across an adjacent
construction site and another nearby medical building.
The flight started at the Aero Med hangar at Gerald R. Ford
International Airport shortly before 1100 Thursday. The S-76 made a
simulated instrument approach to the hospital helipad, switched to
a visual approach a mile out, and landed on the helipad. The
helicopter remained there for several minutes as Sampson and Elliot
discussed procedures before the departure attempt.
Declining to speculate on the crash's cause, Silliman said he
will investigate mechanical failure as a possible cause. "Certainly
we have to look at that possibility," he said. "We can't rule that
Silliman added he had not yet been able to confirm witness
accounts who reported the helicopter's rear rotor hit a radio tower
on the roof.
Spectrum Aero Med has taken its remaining helicopters out of
service "indefinitely," according to hospital spokesman Bruce
Rossman. When it does return to service, the company will have only
one helicopter available... as one of the two operated by the
company is undergoing renovation in Pennsylvania.