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NTSB: Financial pressures contributed to helicopter crash

7:02 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- New information was released Tuesday about a helicopter crash that killed a mayo clinic heart surgeon and technician on Dec. 26, 2011.

A detailed report released by the National Transportation Safety Board contains what they believe the probable cause of that crash.

A year and a half later, the images of the December 2011 helicopter crash are still disturbing.

Inside the chopper were cardiac surgeon Dr. Luis Bonilla, pilot and owner of SK Logistics Hoke Smith and procurement technician David Hines.

SLIDESHOW: NTSB investigates helicopter crash

The three were en route from Jacksonville's Mayo Clinic to Shands Gainesville when the crash happened. The report said the pilot reviewed what the weather was like at the site where he was taking off and where he was landing to prepare, but he did not obtain a standard weather briefing from an FAA-approved source.

It also says a temporary condition during his ETA near Gainesville with visibility of 4 miles in mist and overcast could ceiling at 400 feet.

The report said the pilot likely selected the route so he could navigate by landmarks and fly low in order to stay out of the clouds.

The pilot contacted an air traffic controller 4 minutes before the crash to ask about the status of restricted airspace, which he learned was inactive at the time.

The accident site was located about a half-mile from the last radar turn, which is consistent with a significant change in course and left turn with a continued decent.

The report said examination of the wreckage found no evidence of any malfunction of the engine.

The NTSB said the chopper was not certified for instrument flight rules flight and did not have an autopilot or radar altimeter, nor did the chopper's GPS system have an optional modification that would've included a terrain and obstacle warning feature.

The report said the pilot's financial pressure as owner of the company likely influenced his decision to continue flying into deteriorating weather conditions, adding the pilot's business had declined several years before the accident as a result of the recession.

The company, SK Logistics, filed for bankruptcy in February 2012.
At last check, on May 29th, the court ordered an extension of time for petition for discharge as it relates to the death certificate of Hines.

First Coast News

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