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
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