This is the first in a series of videos chronicling the response by Seattle Police Department to the tragic 2014 crash of a KOMO 4 news helicopter in downtown Seattle.
On March 18, 2014, at about 0740 Pacific daylight time, an Airbus Helicopters AS350 B2 helicopter, registration N250FB, was destroyed when it impacted terrain following takeoff from the KOMO TV Heliport (WN16) in Seattle, Washington. The helicopter was registered to, and operated by, Helicopters Incorporated The commercial pilot and one passenger were fatally injured. One person occupying a stationary automobile was seriously injured when the accident helicopter impacted terrain immediately adjacent to the automobile. (Incredibly, that person emerged from his vehicle – on fire – minutes after the helicopter crash.) Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan had been filed for the local repositioning flight that was originating at the time of the accident. The pilot’s intended destination was the Renton Municipal Airport (RNT) in Renton, WA.
The Electronic News Gathering equipped helicopter had landed on the KOMO News helipad about 30 minutes prior to the accident in order to refuel for its repositioning flight to RNT. A witness who was located on the south side of the helipad reported that he observed the helicopter initially lift off of the helipad to about 15 ft, then heard a muffled sound like a car backfiring, after which the helicopter immediately pointed nose up and began rotating counter-clockwise, spinning out of sight.
A second witness, who was stationed in a crane a few hundred feet to the northeast of the helipad, reported that he observed the helicopter rise up off of the helipad, turn toward the west, and then “shoot straight back” with its nose up, out of control. It then nosed down into the street below, descending into an occupied automobile near a main street intersection, after which a post-impact fire ensued.
The National Transportation Safety Board determined the probable cause of this accident to be loss of helicopter control due to a loss of hydraulic boost to the tail rotor pedal controls at takeoff, followed by a loss of hydraulic boost to the main rotor controls after takeoff. The reason for the loss of hydraulic boost to the main and tail rotor controls could not be determined because of fire damage to hydraulic system components and the lack of a flight recording device.
A video providing additional insight into what led the NTSB to its conclusions will be forthcoming.