Report: Firefighting Chopper Blades Struck in Fatal FL Crash

June 10, 2021
A Black Hawk firefighting helicopter crashed and killed four crew members last month after new equipment came loose and hit the blades, according to a preliminary NTSB report.

A piece of newly installed firefighting equipment that had become dislodged and struck the blades of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed during a test flight in Florida last month, killing four people, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary crash report.

The May 25 accident happened near Leesburg Airport and involved a private company's Black Hawk helicopter used for firefighting. Four crew members were aboard the aircraft, and their bodies were recovered, but their names have not been released.

Initially, the Federal Aviation Administration, which is investigating the incident with the NTSB, had said the helicopter, which is owned by Firehawk Helicopters, was doing a water drop exercise when it lost control of the bucket and the rotor section separated, WKMG-TV reports. The helicopter had been recently been fitted with a new water tank and snorkel to allow it to pull water from different sources, according to the NTSB's  aviation accident preliminary report, which was released Wednesday.

The new equipment was ground tested and calibrated over several days before the helicopter made its test flight, the report stated.

After multiple water drops from a lake near the airport, the snorkel on the helicopter came loose, and the ground crew tried to contact the pilot. But before that could happen, the snorkel began violently swinging as the helicopter ascended, and that was followed by a loud noise, which is thought to have been the snorkel making contact with the blades.

The helicopter then went down in a marshy area near the airport and caught fire, which destroyed much of the aircraft. The firefighting system that had been on the helicopter was located on the edge of an airport runway.

The NTSB is still investigating the incident and will release a complete report once the probe has ended.

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