Bell 206B Helicopter Crash in California Kills Four

NTSB Identification: WPR10GA097
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Tuesday, January 05, 2010 in Auberry, CA
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N5016U
Injuries: 4 Fatal.

On January 5, 2010, at 1209 Pacific standard time, a Bell 206B, N5016U, collided with power lines near Auberry, California. The helicopter was registered to Palm Springs Aviation, Inc., and operated by the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) as a public-use, deer surveying flight. The certificated commercial pilot and three passengers were killed. The helicopter was destroyed by post crash fire. The local flight departed Trimmer Heliport, Trimmer, California, at 1006. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the accident site, and a company flight plan had been filed.

Helicopter Crash Details

At the time of the accident two witnesses, who were law enforcement officers for the United States Forest Service, were located on a north facing ridge at the confluence of Willow Creek and the San Joaquin River. Both officers observed the helicopter emerge from a valley to the north, and fly southbound along Willow Creek directly towards their location. The valley was spanned from the east to west by power transmission lines. The officers reported that the helicopter continued through the valley, in straight and level flight, on a trajectory towards the power lines. As the helicopter came within the immediate vicinity of the lines it, ‘reared back’ and then began an immediate descent, colliding with the ground. The officers reported that prior to the accident the helicopter was not emitting smoke, and did not appear to be in distress. The officers stated that the weather at the time of the accident was clear, with a few high scattered clouds, and light winds out of the north.

The main wreckage came to rest on the valley floor of Willow Creek, at an approximate elevation of 1,200 feet mean sea level (msl). The elevation of the valley peaks directly to the east and west of the site was about 2,500 feet msl. The bases of the power line towers were at an approximate elevation of 1,600 feet msl, and separated by a span of 2,900 feet. The lines consisted of three parallel power transmission lines, which hung between the towers about 3/4 of the distance from their bases. The tops of the towers were spanned by two parallel, ‘static’ ground lines. Examination of the static line to the south revealed that it had severed approximately midspan, and had become entangled in the remaining lines.

The main wreckage, which consisted of the cabin, tailboom, and tail rotor, came to rest inverted at an approximate elevation of 1,200 msl, 100 feet south of the power lines’ midspan point. The entire cabin area was fire consumed. The main transmission and mast were located about 300 feet north of the main wreckage. The main rotor assembly, consisting of the entire ‘red’ blade, hub, and inboard section of the ‘white’ blade, came to rest on the adjacent banks of Willow Creek, about 90 feet northwest of the main wreckage. A 4-foot-long outboard section of the white main rotor blade was located 1,100 feet south of the main rotor assembly.

Examination of the main rotor blades revealed leading edge gouges, with abrasion marks consistent in appearance with the severed static line. The helicopter was equipped with a wire strike protection system. Examination of the systems cutting surfaces revealed them to be sharp and free of scratches, gouges, and abrasions. All major sections of the helicopter were accounted for at the accident site.

This is the preliminary NTSB report for the Bell 206B Helicopter Crash in Auberry, California that killed four on January 05, 2010.

For more information: