NTSB Investigates Crash of Helicopter Flying to Oil Platform

The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched four investigators to investigate the fatal crash of a helicopter in Louisiana on Sunday shortly after it took off to transport workers to an offshore oil platform.

At approximately 2:09 p.m. (CST), Jan. 4, 2009, a Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter (N748P), operated by PHI Inc., crashed into swampy terrain just north of the Gulf of Mexico coastline near Morgan City, LA. The aircraft was on a Part 135 revenue flight to oil platform number 301B. It had taken off from Amelie, LA, about seven minutes before the crash. There were no radio reports of problems from the crew before the crash. Weather at the time is reported to have been visual flight rule conditions, with scattered clouds at 1,000 feet and 10 miles visibility.

An Emergency Locating Transmitter (ELT) emitted a signal following the crash and helped search and rescue personnel find the wreckage. Eight of the nine persons aboard perished, and one person is listed in critical condition.

The investigator-in-charge is Bill Gamble from the Board's Central Regional Office. He and another investigator have traveled to West Lafayette, LA, where PHI's headquarters are located. They will review aircraft maintenance records and flight crew records, and interview company personnel.

Another NTSB investigator is at the accident site. He is documenting the wreckage and will oversee the recovery of the wreckage later today. The wreckage will be moved to West Lafayette for further examination.

A fourth investigator arrived yesterday at West Lafayette to supervise the download of data from a maintenance recorder that was recovered from the wreckage.

A second maintenance recorder is expected to be recovered today and will also be sent to PHI's facilities for readout.

The aircraft's combination cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder was recovered from the wreckage on Monday and arrived today at the Board's laboratories in Washington, D.C., for readout.

Parties to the investigation are the Federal Aviation Administration, PHI, Sikorsky Aircraft and Turbomeca, the engine manufacturer.

Information on the progress of the investigation will be released by the Board's Public Affairs Office in Washington.