Hebbronville--The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released their preliminary accident report regarding a fatal helicopter collision that occurred back on October 23 near the small South Texas community of Hebbronville.
The NTSB confirmed on October 29, 2019 that 2 Robinson R22 helicopters collided over a South Texas ranch while conducting “wildlife operations” over the area. According to the report, the commercial pilot and a passenger aboard one of the helicopters were both killed following the collision.
The report did provide some details towards how the accident may have happened saying that the helicopter where both the passenger and pilot were killed was operating as the spotter aircraft, responsible for sighting wildlife on the ground. The secondary helicopter was the "gunner" aircraft, responsible for capturing the wildlife that day.
The pilot of the “gunner” aircraft told investigators that the “spotter” aircraft had seen wildlife and called out to the pilot of the “gunner” helicopter over the radio. The report says that the “gunner” flew to the area where the “spotter” was flying, and the pilot of “gunner” aircraft had called out he had wildlife in sight.
When the “gunner” helicopter turned to the right and continued to track the wildlife while descending upon it. At that point, the report states that the “spotter” helicopter turned to the left announcing on the radio he had spotted another animal. The pilot of “gunner” aircraft then called over the radio that the animal was not viable, which was the last transmission before the pilot of the “spotter” felt an impact to his helicopter. The report goes onto say that they then observed the other helicopter descend and impact the ground.
The preliminary report also says that two witnesses on the ground stated after the pilot of “spotter” announced he had the wildlife in sight, the helicopter turned to the right to follow the wildlife. The pilot of “gunner” aircraft witnesses say initially turned to the left, but then came back to the right for some reason and collided with the “spotter.”
The main wreckage of “spotter” aircraft (the aircraft with the fatalities) came to rest in an unimproved field containing scrub brush and mesquite trees. The report details how the “spotter” helicopter impacted the ground in a flat, slight left-side low position. The main wreckage included the main rotor, tail rotor, fuselage, tail boom, and skids. The pilot of the “gunner” helicopter was able to perform a forced landing on an adjacent roadway. While both persons in that helicopter survived, the passenger was treated for serious injuries.
Government records indicate that both helicopters were registered to South Texas Helicopters Inc. out of Falfurrias.