Sikorsky S-61A, Kimble, Tenn., March 23, 2003–At 8 a.m. CST Sikorsky S-61A N81664, registered to and operated by Pennsylvania-based Carson Helicopters out of Grants Pass, Ore., crashed and burst into flames during a logging operation in a remote area near Kimble. The aircraft was operating in VMC under Part 133 for external load operations. The commercial-rated pilot was killed and the second commercial-rated crewmember received serious injuries.
According to witnesses, the aircraft departed the staging area at about 7:30 a.m. and was working in the crash-site area. The helicopter had just released a load of logs when a local witness heard the pilot yell, and then saw the lower pickup hook hit the ground and start coiling up. The helicopter was seen to spin before impact. The witness ran away from the helicopter and heard it collide with trees. Seconds later a loud explosion was heard. The witness returned to the accident site to help the pilots escape from the burning wreckage.
The helicopter came to rest 75 feet down a ravine on its left side. There were freshly broken trees approximately 50 feet above the wreckage site. The lower pickup hook of the long line rested on a dirt path, with an approximately 50-foot section of long line extending down toward the helicopter. The long line displayed heavy fire damage. The cockpit and cabin of the helicopter were consumed by fire. The tailboom was partially consumed by fire, and the tail-rotor blades were bent but still connected to the tail-rotor transmission. The tail-rotor driveshaft was intact and connected to the main rotor transmission. The five main rotor blades were connected to the main rotor head and displayed buckling and deformation damage. Evidence of the long line electrical cable was found wrapped around the swash plate. A 38-foot section of the long-line was found on one of the main rotor blades. The engines sustained heavy fire and deformation damage.