Witnesses Heard Aircraft Flying Low
The National Transportation Safety
Board recently ruled 'undetermined' reasons were behind the downing
of an Airlift Northwest medical helicopter crash in 2005, that
claimed the lives of the pilot and two flight nurses.
As ANN reported, Coast Guard
rescue crews searched the waters off the coast near Seattle, WA and
located debris from the Agusta A109/Mk II medevac helicopter, after
it went down September 29, 2005 as it returned to base after
dropping off a passenger at a nearby hospital.
No one saw the helicopter go down at approximately 9:30 pm,
although one witness called 911 to report a helicopter fly over
near the accident site. The witness said "shortly after that [the
helicopter] sounded 'funny' and then they heard an explosion," said
Edmonds, WA police Sgt. Jeff Jones.
According to the NTSB report, just prior to the loss of radar
contact, the helicopter entered a left turn towards the west, away
from the shoreline. No eyewitnesses to the accident were located,
but a number witnesses heard the low flying helicopter, followed by
the sound of impact.
The closest aviation weather reporting station was about five
miles northwest of the accident site, and reported winds from the
southwest at 6 knots, the report states, with visibilities
restricted in light rain and mist, a ceiling ranging from 200 to
800 feet, with conditions rapidly deteriorating within 30 minutes
of the accident.
The report further states that damage observed on the recovered
wreckage was "consistent with the helicopter impacting the water in
an uncontrolled descent" but, "the majority of the helicopter,
including most of the flight control system and all flight
instruments and avionics, was not recovered, precluding
determination of the reasons for the loss of control."
Lost were pilot Steven
Smith, 59, of Whidbey Island, WA and nurses Erin Reed, 48, and Lois
Suzuki, 47, both of Seattle.
Less than a month after this crash, a second Airlift NW
helicopter experienced problems. As ANN reported, none of the
four people aboard that Agusta A109 (type shown at right) was
seriously injured when the medical chopper lost power on takeoff
and fell off the Providence-St. Peter Hospital's roof helipad.
The alarming situation prompted Airlift Northwest management to
conduct a one day voluntary "stand down" on November 29, 2005 in
order to review its safety procedures as part a larger
comprehensive internal and external review to ensure the
organization operates with the best practices in the aviation
The audit -- conducted by R. Dixon Speas Associates -- found no
safety issues, and no FAA violations.