PHI S-76 Down In Louisiana

 - January 6, 2009, 11:42 AM

Six of seven passengers and both pilots died when a two-year-old Sikorsky S-76C++ crashed into a swamp just seven minutes after takeoff from Amelia, La., on Sunday afternoon. The Petroleum Helicopters Inc.-operated helicopter was outbound to Shell Oil’s South Timbalier 300 Block platform in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the NTSB, the helicopter was equipped with both a cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, and both are expected to be recovered. PHI pilots Thomas Ballenger and Vyarl Martin did not transmit a distress call before the accident. Weather at the time of the crash was reported as visibility 10 miles with a few clouds at 1,000 feet. The crash site was located approximately 10 miles south of Morgan City, La. Rescue workers were forced to access the site with air boats. An ELT signal from the helicopter was picked up by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Langley, Va., approximately 20 minutes after the crash.