Crash kills three near Carbon airport
A helicopter crash near the Carbon County airport fatally wounded three men this Saturday as they attempted to return to Salt Lake City.
During a joint press conference with Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova on July 20, Patrick Jones of the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that his organization along with the Federal Aviation Administration would be conducting a full investigation into the incident in order to determine the facts surrounding the fatalities.
According to Sheriff Cordova, Carbon County officials were alerted to the crash at 3:42 p.m. with his men arriving on scene within 10 minutes. While the chopper was completely burned the smoking wreckage did not ignite any nearby vegetation.
"There was a quick flash and then that was it," said Cordova.
Upon arriving the sheriff's office discovered the remains of James Ian Innes, 59, of Salt Lake City; his son Andrew Innes, 30, of Park City and their friend George McDaniel, 40, of Idaho Falls.
"Paramedics were called to the area with everyone else, but the men were not transported to the hospital. They were all pronounced dead at the scene of the crash," said Cordova.
While the names of the men were released neither Cordova or Jones would speculate as to the cause of the incident.
"You have to understand that the process could take upwards of six months to conclude," said Jones. "You guys in the media like to solve everything in 23 minutes but it takes us a little closer to six months."
The NTSB investigators will have a preliminary report on their website in the next five or six days, he said but a full assessment of the incident will take longer.
"I can only talk about facts, I will not speculate," said Jones.
According to the NTSB investigator, his team will gather factual data and then present their findings to a five person presidential board. It will be their responsibility to release a statement concerning the cause of the crash.
The NTSB has a massive workload, with 14 regional investigators covering 10 states and investigating upwards of 600 incidents per year.
Following the crash, officials enacted a temporary flight restriction over the area where the helicopter touched down.
When asked by the state media if such a restriction was typical, Jones replied, "I would do it if it were your family or mine."
Because the remains were not removed until the late morning hours of July 20, investigators kept the area off-limits to the media until the 3:30 p.m. press conference.
"We restrict the airspace because media helicopters tend to park at 1000 ft. and that can be a real distraction to the investigation," said Jones.
Jones reported that the Hughes 369 model helicopter is a civilian aircraft that can be used for everything from firefighting to recreational flying. It has a max capacity of five but typically carries no more than four including the pilot.
The aircraft left the Carbon County Airport at approximately 3:40 p.m. on July 19. And while the investigators maintained that scene was too new to speculate about the time line, the aircraft crashed within a mile of its point of origin just northwest of the airport.
"When the Hughes 369 departed the airport for their personal flight the destination was approximately 15 minutes away," said Jones. "Another aircraft was in the air at the time of the crash but they reported hearing no distress call around the time of the crash."
The sheriff stipulated that his officers will maintain a perimeter around the crash site until the federal investigators have concluded their fact finding.
According to Jones, there are so many things that can lead to a crash of this type. From weight to weather to pilot problems, there are just a lot of things that can go wrong.
People interested in the preliminary crash report may visit the NTSB within the next 10 days at www.ntsb.gov.