Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Crash report was off mark

Within hours of our hearing of (our son) Quin's helicopter crash, we got the first warning that it would be most convenient for the National Transportation Safety Board if they could find evidence to blame the dead pilot. It could save millions for the government or one of the big corporations involved. They did not in fact find any such evidence so they just blamed him anyway.

There were three NTSB reports. The first, about 10 days after the crash, noted that the lidless external cargo baskets had spilled baggage all the way down the mountain. There may or may not have been human error involved in securing the cargo with bungies. The cargo had been slashed by the tail rotors and the tail cone came off. The aviation company that owned and maintained the helicopter swiftly (about a month) refitted all their helicopters with lidded baskets. The problem had been corrected.

But the second and the last NTSB reports painted this picture: The pilot, coming down from the lookout, turned to the crew chief safety officer and the firefighter who had just survived a car crash and a burnover and the Forest Service lookout who loved her job but hated flying and said, "OK if I fly directly into the late afternoon sun and buzz this ridge and perform a zero gravity maneuver?'' And they all agreed, and that's when they hit the snag that wasn't noticed for the first report and the contents of the basket that were previously thought to have been spilling all the way down the mountain were gathered closely downhill from that snag.

I want justice.

Ann Stone



Editor's note: The Express called the helicopter company, Evergreen Helicopter Inc., to inquire whether it had indeed retrofitted its aircraft after the incident. Company representatives said they did not want to comment on the matter, at least as long as the case is still being investigated.

In its last report, the NTSB listed the cause of the crash as "intentional low-altitude flight."

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