Offshore Helicopter Crashes

Offshore helicopter crashes are just one of the many dangers facing oil rig crews in the Gulf of Mexico. With oil platforms often hundreds of miles from the coast, ferrying workers to and from the mainland by helicopter is likely the most efficient method. But is it the safest way? Do oil companies and the helicopter companies they hire do enough to ensure the well-being of oil rig workers?


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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports five offshore helicopter crashes in the Gulf of Mexico in 2007 alone. One of these, on February 12, 2007, was a fatal accident.

The incident occurred when the pilot of a Eurocopter France, operated by ERA Helicopters, was approaching the Vermillion 200A oil rig for landing. There were no witnesses to the accident, though many workers on board the oil platform reported that they could hear the helicopter. They said that they felt the structure shake, and then could no longer hear the helicopter’s engine.

The NTSB determined the probable causes of the helicopter accident to be pilot error, with bad weather as a contributing factor:

“The pilot’s inadequate compensation for the gusty wind conditions which resulted in his failure to maintain clearance with the structure extending from the offshore oil platform. Contributing to the accident was the gusty wind condition,” the report reads.

Both the pilot and his passenger died in the helicopter crash.

Pilot Error and Bad Weather

Pilot error is by far the leading cause of all aviation accidents in general. But it is especially true of helicopter crashes in the Gulf of Mexico. Of the four accidents in 2007 that have final reports, three list pilot error to be the primary probable cause. Bad weather is listed as a secondary cause in one event.

There are more than 3,900 oil platforms operating in the Gulf of Mexico and about 30,000 workers who commute back and forth from the rigs. In most cases, shifts are designed as two weeks on, two weeks off, meaning that twice a month workers must make the perilous helicopter journey. Bad weather and “gusty wind conditions” are common in the Gulf, and one small break in a pilot’s concentration can have catastrophic results.

Who Can Offshore Workers Turn To After a Helicopter Accident?
For those injured in an offshore helicopter accident, the question of compensation quickly becomes complicated. The oil company and/or the helicopter company may offer a settlement, but it is usually far below what the worker deserves. Similarly Workers’ Compensation is often very limited.

Aviation Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an offshore helicopter crash, you need an experienced attorney on your side to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. David P. Willis has successfully fought and won cases for clients involved in helicopter accidents, and he may be able to help you secure the settlement you need to cover lost wages, hospital bills, and pain and suffering. Contact the Willis Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Hawaiian Eurocopter EC-130 Tourist Helicopter Crash

A Pennsylvania couple was on their honeymoon after marrying on November 5, 2011 when the Eurocopter EC-130 Helicopter excursion they were on; crashed, killing all on board as they were flying over the scenic Hawaiian Island of Molokai.

Michael and Nicole Abel, were from Murrysville, Pennsylvania, and had only been married six days when their tour chopper lost altitude and smashed into a ridge after a freak attack of bad weather.  The tour pilot, Nathan Cline and two Canadians from Ontario also died in this horrific accident.

Their wedding photographer, Joe Appel said the two had remarkable chemistry together. ‘It was pretty obvious they had a bright future together. … They were a very sweet couple, very devoted to each other’.

Michael and Nicole Abel both worked for the Westinghouse nuclear power company at the corporate headquarters in Cranberry, Pennsylvania.

According to witnesses, a storm front suddenly blew across the island of Molokai and caught the tour helicopter, a Eurocopter EC-130. The helicopter crashed into a ridge behind an elementary school, where it exploded into flames on impact. Other eyewitness accounts said rain and a storm front suddenly caught the helicopter as strong wind gusts blew through the island.

Firefighters and Police officers used all-terrain vehicles to reach the remote crash site in the mountains. Four bodies were pulled from the wreckage, and a fifth was underneath the aircraft.

School officials scrambled to keep all the students inside the elementary school. Rescuers worked on a smoking area in the mountains, which was visible from the school yard, according to the Molokai Dispatch.

Mr. and Mrs. Abel and the Canadian victims were on a 45-minute tour of West Maui and Molokai operated by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters.

Blue Hawaiian offices closed Friday, so the company officials could review procedures. While Federal aviation investigators arrived in Hawaii to begin going through the wreckage to determine what caused the crash.

The EC-130 chopper that crashed was less than a year old and was leased from Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC. Tour helicopters have come under heavy scrutiny over their safety in recent years around the country.

Blue Hawaiian conducts approximately 160,000 tours each year on all of the Hawaiian Islands, and another Blue Hawaiian helicopter was involved in a July 2000 crash that killed seven people on Maui.

Contact an Aviation Lawyer

For a free and confidential consultation, please call our law firm toll free at 1-800-883-9858 or fill out our online form by clicking below:

7 Survive Aerospatiale Accident in Arizona

On December 6, 2009, about 1030 Pacific standard time, an Aerospatiale AS 355F1 helicopter, N548SA, was substantially damaged during cruise flight following the left engine cowling door opening in flight near Temple Bar, Arizona. The helicopter was registered to and operated by HeliUSA Airways Inc., Las Vegas, Nevada, under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135. The commercial pilot and six passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the cross-country flight. The air tour flight originated from the Mc Carran International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, about 1000, with an intended destination of Grand Canyon, Arizona.

The pilot reported that during cruise flight, he heard a “thumping” noise followed by slight feedback within the cyclic control. The pilot contacted a second company helicopter to have them visually inspect the helicopter in flight. The pilot of the second helicopter informed the pilot that the left engine cowling appeared to be open and partially separated. The pilot initiated a precautionary landing to a dirt road and landed without further incident.

FAA Findings

Examination of the helicopter by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed that two of the three main rotor blades were damaged. One main rotor blade exhibited a one-inch long gouge about one-quarter of an inch in depth near the blade root. A portion of the left engine cowling was separated and not located.

PHI Helicopter Crash Near New Orleans, LA

PHI, Inc Helicopter Crashes Killing Eight

[Jan. 5, 2009] Eight people were killed and a ninth was reported critically injured after a PHI,Inc helicopter bound for the offshore oil fields crashed Sunday afternoon in marshlands about 100 miles southwest of New Orleans.

NTSB Investigating Latest PHI Helicopter Crash

The helicopter, operated by PHI Inc. was carrying two pilots and seven passengers, The PHI’s helicopter crashed about 3:30 p.m. shortly after taking off from PHI’s base in Amelia, said Richard Rovinelli, a spokesman for the company. The identities of the victims have not yet been released. The cause of this latest PHI helicopter crash isn’t known at this time, but the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) crash investigators are expected to arrive today according to the company spokesman for PHI.

PHI also involved in Air Ambulance Crash in East Texas

PHI is a primary provider of helicopter services to oil and gas platforms that dot the coast of Louisiana. It also flies medical helicopters. Workers typically are flown to and from their worksites from coastal flight bases. In June, a PHI Air Medical helicopter crashed in East Texas, killing four. The medivac helicopter crash in the Sam Houston National Forest killed the pilot, paramedic, nurse and a patient who was being transported from Huntsville to Houston. That crew agreed to transport the patient after another helicopter company abandoned the mission saying that cloud cover was too low, making visibility poor in the early-morning darkness.

Talk to a Helicopter Crash Lawyer

If you have lost a loved one in this tragic PHI Helicopter Crash in Louisiana, then call us and speak to an attorney that understands helicopter crashes involving PHI and is very familar with PHI, Inc and other crashes, especially the 2008 crash in East Texas. Often we can fly and visit with you in person within 24 hours to meet you and explain the NTSB crash investigation process and the estimated timeline of events surrounding crash investigations and the legal process and help you and your family in filing the necessary paperwork that is necessary in sudden accidents and wrongful deaths. Let us know if we can help. Call our law firm toll free: 1-800-883-9858

Offshore Helicopter Crash near Sabine Pass, Texas

Sabine Pass, Texas — The U.S. Coast Guard says three people are dead and two missing following a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico. The helicopter had been on its way to an oil rig. A Coast Guard cutter is at the crash site, about two miles off the Texas coast near the town of Sabine Pass. Aerial searches will resume after sunrise.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington says investigators will work with the Federal Aviation Administration to determine the cause of the crash.

Wisconsin Helicopter Crash Kills Four

Midwestern Aviation Helicopter Crashes Near Kenosha, Wi

On September 21, 2008 a Robinson R44 II helicopter owned by Midwestern Air Services LLC, was destroyed when it impacted an occupied house and terrain near Kenosha, Wisconsin. A ground fire subsequently occurred. The private pilot and a passenger were fatally injured. The five occupants in the house were uninjured. The flight originated from the Horseshoe Casino Heliport, near Whiting, Indiana, about 0430, and was destined for the Kenosha Regional Airport (ENW), near Kenosha, Wisconsin, when the accident occurred.

A Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper who was outside the weight facility on Interstate 94 at the Illinois and Wisconsin State Line about six miles south of the accident site heard a helicopter heading north at a “very low altitude” and estimated it at 500 feet. He did not see the helicopter or its lights due to the “dense fog.” He stated that the visibility there was about 300 to 500 feet.

Witnesses to Helicopter Crash

A witness who lived near the accident site gave a statement to the Kenosha Police Department. The witness stated that a low flying helicopter was heard. It circled once then went away and came back. The witness saw an orange flash through the window and heard a “boom.” The witness said the helicopter sounded “really low” and the “engine sounded like it was at low RPMs.”

A witness from the occupied house on the northwest corner of 97th Avenue and 70th Street that was impacted by the helicopter gave a statement to the police department. The statement, in part, indicated:

My family and I were fast asleep in our residence when I heard and
felt a loud bang like thunder, and then a cloud of debris came
[through] our bedroom door. My wife and I were in the southeast
bedroom. Our two sons were in the northeast bedroom and our
daughter was the bedroom over the garage. We got our kids and
[with] the help of our neighbors made it down the stairs and outside.
None of us were injured. I saw the flames across the street and one
of our neighbors told me a helicopter hit our house.

Robinson R44 Helicopter Wreckage Found

The main portion of the helicopter wreckage was found on a neighbor’s lawn across 97th Avenue. The helicopter was resting on its left side about 80 feet and about 106 degrees magnetic from the front of the impacted house. A debris path started at the rear of the second floor above the house’s central staircase where the helicopter had come through the roof. The debris path was observed down those central stairs and through the front of the house. The path continued across 97th Avenue and went up to the resting helicopter. The helicopter’s resting heading was about 180 degrees magnetic. The rear and lower portions of the helicopter cabin, inner portions of the fuel tanks, and the transmission between the fuel tanks were deformed and melted by fire. Sections of the main rotor blades remained attached to the rotor hub. The landing skids and crosstube were detached from the fuselage and were found in sections through out the debris path. The tail cone remained attached to the helicopter. The tail rotor gearbox separated from the tailcone. A circular area of lawn around the wreckage exhibited charring and blight. The hour meter read 318.6 hours.

An on-scene investigation was conducted. The engine was rotated by hand and it produced a thumb compression at all of its cylinders. The magnetos and fuel pumps sustained fire damage. The spark plugs were gray to brown in color and did not exhibit any anomalies. The fuel servo’s screen did not contain any debris. The engine’s oil screen did not contain any debris. Both fuel tanks were deformed by fire and contained a liquid with a blue hue. The tail rotor gearbox rotated by hand.
An NTSB investigation is continuing and a final report is not expected for months