Failure to check winds caused fatal chopper crash

Last year's fatal helicopter crash was caused by pilot error, according to a report released this week by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

Last year’s fatal helicopter crash was caused by pilot error, according to a report released this week by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

Paul Rosset died July 10, 2012 after losing control of the helicopter he was piloting. It crashed on Nares Mountain, close to Carcross.

The aircraft was operated by Horizon Helicopters Ltd.

Two Yukon Environment employees onboard survived the crash. John Postma was paralyzed from the waist down. The second passenger sustained minor injuries.

The three were collecting data for a grizzly bear study.

The pilot failed to check wind speeds in the area where he planned to land before attempting a landing, according to the investigation report.

“It’s a standard procedure,” said Barry Holt, an investigator with the board. “A reconnaissance pass is done so that the pilot can ascertain the winds, actually feel the winds, as he flies through the area that he’s going to approach and start a hover and land. So he can feel the winds there. It’s the only way you can really tell, because obviously you can’t see wind.”

To the best of his knowledge, the pilot usually did this, said Holt.

“But at this particular time he did not and it caught him.”

Winds in the area were high that day, and the team was prevented from inspecting some of the bear-bait sites at higher elevations because of it, according to the report.

The helicopter was on its way back to Whitehorse at the time of the incident. The pilot said that they would stop to collect data where possible at sites along the way.

At Nares Mountain the pilot slowed to a hover and began a decent.

But a gust of wind came up and the pilot lost control, causing the helicopter to fall and crash to the ground.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre received an emergency signal following the crash, and a second helicopter was dispatched with emergency personnel on board.

“The passenger in the left front seat sustained minor injuries, and was able to escape the wreckage, and then returned to the aircraft to assist with the evacuation of the rear passenger who had sustained severe injuries and was not able to extract himself from the aircraft,” according to the report.

“The left-front passenger also noted a strong fuel smell, and moved the more seriously injured passenger away from the aircraft, but, upon returning to retrieve the pilot, found the pilot to be deceased, and left him in place.”

The pilot was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

While a helmet could have lessened the trauma sustained to the head, there is no regulatory requirement to wear one.

Horizon Helicopters has implemented a safety policy following the crash that requires pilots to wear helmets.

The company did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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