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Robinson R22 Tangles With Tall Grass

Helicopter loses fight, pilot and passenger injured, rotor boom separated from aircraft

The pilot and passenger of a Robinson R22 helicopter (file photo) were injured when the aircraft's tail rotor tangled in the tall grass in Vega Baja (PR), next to the facilities of a propane gas company.

The aircraft, N2314T, registered to Univeral Development Corporation of Vega Alta (PR), was being flown by Jose Reyes Casanova, 62, resident of Manati (PR), who operates a cattle ranch in the area. The passenger was identified as Edwin Rodriguez Davila, 73, a retired employee of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

According to reports from the site of the accident, the aircraft had picked up the passenger on one side of the property where it crashed, and was landing on another side of the same property where the grass was much taller than the takeoff point. They were about to land, when the passenger unhooked his seat belt in preparation to disembark. The selected landing spot was well clear of the nearby propane gas tanks, but the pilot appears not to have noticed the vegetation was much taller. When they landed, the tail rotor tangled with the tall grass and the aircraft's rotor boom separated from the fuselage.

The FAA, however, reports the aircraft's skids tangled with the grass and the helicopter tipped sideways. Photographs of the accident published by Primera Hora show the aircraft upright and the tail boom laying on the ground to the left of the fuselage. All of the main rotor blades were bent downwards.

The passenger suffered a spinal fracture in the area of the cervical vertebrae, and was taken to a nearby hospital. The pilot suffered only minor injuries. The helicopter suffered extensive damage.

IDENTIFICATION
  Regis#: 2314T        Make/Model: R22       Description: R-22
  Date: 10/19/2004     Time: 2005

  Event Type: Accident   Highest Injury: Minor     Mid Air: N    Missing: N
  Damage: Substantial

LOCATION
  City: VEGA BAJA                   State:      Country: PR

DESCRIPTION
  ROBINSON R-22 ROTORCRAFT, ON LIFT-OFF, SKID GOT TANGLED IN THE TALL GRASS
  AND ACFT TIPPED OVER, VEGA BAJA, PUERTO RICO

INJURY DATA      Total Fatal:   0
                 # Crew:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   
                 # Pass:   1     Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   1     Unk:   
                 # Grnd:         Fat:   0     Ser:   0     Min:   0     Unk:   

WEATHER: VFR                                                                        
                                                                                    
OTHER DATA
  Activity: Aerial Observation      Phase: Take-off      Operation: Foreign (FORG)

  Departed: UNK                         Dep Date:    Dep. Time:     
  Destination: UNK                      Flt Plan: UNK          Wx Briefing: U
  Last Radio Cont: UNK
  Last Clearance: UNK

  FAA FSDO: SAN JUAN, PR  (SO21)                  Entry date: 10/20/2004

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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