Med helicopter veered off course before crashing - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Med helicopter veered off course before crashing

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Matt Gerien / FOX13 News Matt Gerien / FOX13 News
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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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SOMERVILLE, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Federal investigators revealed Wednesday the Hospital Wing helicopter that crashed around down Tuesday in Somerville veered off course just before it crashed near the Fayette County Airport.

The Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Pedi-Flight was headed to Bolivar to pick up a sick child. Flight nurse Carrie Barlow, respiratory therapist Denise Adams and pilot Charles Smith perished. The chopper was following Highway 64 toward Bolivar when it turned southeast.

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board removed the wreckage from the crash site Wednesday afternoon and completed their on-site investigation.

READ: NTSB Report on Emergency Medical Services Operations

A salvage crew pulled the wreckage out of the woods. Several pieces of what was the medical helicopter filled a flatbed trailer. The debris looked nothing that resembled a helicopter.

A specialized team gathered the parts and they will reconstruct them in Nashville for the NTSB.

"We'll be doing a more extensive evaluation in what we call a reconstruction of the wreckage," said NTSB Investigator Ralph Hicks.

Satellite tracking data reveals new information about the chopper's final moments. It was traveling east following Highway 64 toward Bolivar, flying at about 1,000 feet. Just before the crash the pilot turned to the south.

MORE: 3 killed in Hospital Wing crash identified
MORE: DENISE ADAMS BIO
MORE: CARRIE BARLOW BIO
MORE: CHARLES SMITH BIO
MORE: Le Bonheur reacts to team members who died in tragic crash
MORE: Hospital Wing pilots known as best in business
MORE: NTSB investigates medical helicopter crash


"We don't know why the helicopter initiated the turn or why the pilot initiated the turn other than the fact that we're still looking into that," Hicks said.

Hicks said there's no evidence of a distress call there was no sign anything was wrong. The helicopter doesn't have a flight data recorder or black box. It wasn't required.

Some of the aircraft's instruments record flight information, but investigators don't know if they'll be able to recover the data.

"There was an extensive fire especially in the cabin and in the cockpit areas of the helicopter," Hicks said. "Much of that area was destroyed by post crash fire."

The NTSB is interviewing about a half dozen people who say they saw or heard the chopper before it crashed. They'll also be reviewing the pilot's experience, the helicopter's maintenance history and the weather at the time of the crash.

It will take time before they determine the cause.

"There's lots of things that happen down the road," Hicks said. "These investigations can take nine months to a year to complete."

The NTSB will be at Hospital Wing going over record. They say they've been very helpful cooperating with the investigation. Hospital Wing is one of the parties of the investigation, along with the aircraft manufacturer, the engine maker, and the FAA.
 
A preliminary report on the investigation should be out in a week.

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