The NTSB has released its preliminary report on the December 29 crash of a Rotorcraft Leasing Bell 407 at the West Delta 106 energy platform helipad in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Louisiana coast. It crashed on takeoff, killing the pilot and three passengers.
The report catalogs physical evidence that suggests the helicopter hit a chain link perimeter skirt around the platform's 24-by-24-foot helipad and then plunged into the water below. It notes that there were no eyewitnesses to, or video of, the accident, either from the platform or the Appareo Vision 1000 camera system aboard the aircraft. The helicopter wreckage and occupants were recovered on January 2. The Appareo image recorder was not found on the platform or in the wreckage, “however, there was extensive fuselage damage in the area that the cockpit image recorder is normally mounted,” according to the report.
Helicopter debris was recovered from several platform decks below the helipad and was mostly “consistent with the materials used to construct the main rotor blades. A six-foot-long portion of the main rotor blade came to rest on a metal handrail located on the deck below the helipad.” The NTSB also noted numerous instances of other helicopter-related debris and paint scrapings on the platform.
While no one witnessed the crash, the crew of the platform did hear the associated noise, went outside, and then observed the helicopter’s fuselage floating in the water inverted, separated from its tail boom and landing gear with deployed emergency floats. The fuselage sank before the crew could reach it with the platform’s emergency escape capsule. Weather in the area was reported as VMC, ceiling 8,500 feet, 10 miles visibility, with the wind at 12 knots out of the southeast.