Fatal Air Ambulance Crash Linked to Rotor Problem

Investigators are looking for the cause of the fatal crash of a medical transport helicopter near Midlothian on June 4, 2010.

The helicopter’s main rotor was found intact and apart from the rest of the wreckage, indicating that it may have come loose in flight.

Mechanics for CareFlite had worked on the rotor system just before the flight and had replaced key components, according to Tom Latson, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Bell 222U took off from Grand Prairie Municipal Airport at 1:52 p.m. on what was supposed to be a routine maintenance checkout flight, and the first call reporting the crash came just eight minutes later, Latson said.

Latson said Friday that the helicopter was flying at 1,300 feet above sea level when it fell from the sky.

A 10-person team from the safety board was at the scene examining the wreckage. Latson said investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration, Bell Helicopter and engine manufacturer Honeywell were helping his team.

“We’re documenting the wreckage and will probably start to recover” it at midday today, Latson said. The wreckage will be taken to a secure facility in Dallas where investigators will lay it out and try to determine what failed and why.

The rotor assembly and the tail boom were found separate from the fuselage, which burned after impact. The tail rotor was apparently severed from the fuselage by the main rotor, but Latson said the sequence of events has yet to be determined.

Several things could have caused the rotor assembly to separate from the aircraft, but one aviation investigator said it appeared that a large nut that holds the assembly onto the drive shaft — may have come loose.

Officials identified the two men killed as pilot Guy del Giudice, 44, of north Fort Worth and mechanic Stephen Durler, 23, of Dallas. Del Giudice is identified on CareFlite’s website as its chief pilot.

CareFlite has grounded its other two Bell 222 helicopters until the cause of the crash is determined. The Grand Prairie airport is about 24 miles north of the crash scene. CareFlite bought the helicopter in March.

At the time of the crash, the helicopter was undergoing maintenance and testing so CareFlite could obtain FAA certification to use it for emergency and other medical transportation flights.

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