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Sat, Jun 10, 2006

NTSB Issues Preliminary Report In DC Medevac Downing

Investigators Focus On Mechanical Problems

In its Preliminary Investigation released this week on a May 30 accident involving a medevac EC-135 in Washington, DC, the National Transportation Safety Board is looking at the possibility a mechanical failure led to the helo losing power.

The NTSB says the MedSTAR helicopter, which was transporting a patient from Greater Southeast Community Hospital, approached the Washington Hospital Center helipad from the south to land, but then overflew it. The helo then circled around on the north side of the hospital center and approached the helipad flying southbound, but again abandoned the approach.

A short time later, the helicopter crashed on the golf course at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, about a half-mile away.

As Aero-News reported, the pilot, Darryl Johnson, and two medical crewmembers were seriously injured in the accident. The critically ill patient being transported, 51-year-old Steven Gaston, later died at the hospital for reasons not yet determined.

Johnson told the NTSB the helicopter "shuffled" as it approached the pad the first time, and the engine's RPM increased, which led him to abort the landing. Johnson then switched to manual control of the helicopter's #1 turbine, but kept the second engine on automatic mode.

Flight paramedic David Martin told investigators he heard an audio alarm in his headset after the first approach to the pad, and "it felt like the helicopter lost power." Martin heard the alarm again on the second landing attempt, as well.

The "shuffle" Johnson mentioned worsened over the golf course, the pilot reported, causing the helo to become uncontrollable. Just before the helicopter went down, Johnson called "mayday" and alerted his crew to prepare for a crash.

Just before impact, the helicopter "went into a spin," Martin said.

FMI: Read The Full NTSB Prelim

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