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NTSB releases preliminary report on December spillway crash

helicopter crash near bonnet carre.jpg
Posted at 2:54 PM, Jan 05, 2022

The National Transportation Safety Board has released the preliminary report on the December helicopter crash that happened on the Bonnet Carré Spillway Bridge.

The only casualty in the crash of the Bell 407 helicopter, which according to FAA records is registered to RC Smith Aviation of Baton Rouge, was the pilot, the report states.

The helicopter departed Gonzales and was en route to the Lakefront Airport in New Orleans. The craft followed Interstate 10 at an altitude of 75 to 175 feet, until about a mile before the crash site, when the altitude dropped to 50 feet, the report states.

The helicopter collided with a guy wire that was suspended between two tall trusses over the interstate; the report says it was about 130 feet above the bridge. Investigators were able to view video from several dash cams that captured the crash, the report states.

"Video showed that the helicopter’s main rotor blades, mast, and transmission separated from the fuselage and were located in Lake Pontchartrain. A post impact fire ensued which consumed most of the fuselage," the report states.

After the crash, the U.S. Coast Guard was dispatched to the scene to offer help; that pilot reported that the weather was visual flight rules at Louis Armstrong International Airport but deteriorated to marginal visual flight to instrument flight conditions farther west.

"Low level fog allowed the stanchions of the power lines to be barely visible from the east. However, from the west, the fog layer was above the power lines with high cloud layers that reached about 1,200 ft. From a top-down view, there was very dense fog from all areas with a tall column of clouds to the west of the power line intersection where the accident occurred," the report states. "They were able to orbit overhead with good visibility at 500 ft over the shoreline, but at landfall to the west, a wall of clouds built to 1,200 ft."

Investigators were able to recover all major components of the helicopter, and they're being examined, the report states.

The NTSB usually releases an preliminary report after a crash like this, with a final report coming approximately 18 to 24 months later.