Bell 206B Copter Crash in Florida

Two Killed in Florida Helicopter Crash

On September 11, 2007, a Bell 206B registered to Biscayne Helicopter Inc. and operated by Southland Helicopters impacted into the ocean near Nokomis, Florida.  The commercial-rated pilot of the Bell 206B received serious injuries and two passengers received fatal injuries. The Bell helicopter was destroyed. The helicopter flight originated from the Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, Sarasota, Florida, earlier that day, about 0840.

A witnesses on a boat stated that the helicopter was being used to take photos of the racing boat he was piloting for a boating magazine. The helicopter was flying at about seven to ten feet off the water, about 100 yards in front of and to the left of the boat. They were traveling about 85 mph. The helicopter was flying pretty much straight ahead, but maybe crabbing about 5 degrees so that the right door was a little more visible.

The pilot was flying the helicopter from the right seat. One of the passengers was in the left front seat and the other passenger, the photographer, was taking pictures out the right rear door opening, sort of leaning out the door. The photographer is usually connected to a harness strap attached to the inside of the helicopter. We were traveling directly into a very mild head wind of 5 mph or less.

The seas were calm and nearly flat, especially closer to shore. As he was following the helicopter with the boat, it (the helicopter) seemed to get a little lower in altitude, which I felt, was lower than I had ever seen it. Then it rose back up slightly and immediately started descending until it hit the water. It seemed almost as if it glided in at consistent angle; it appeared that the first contact with the water was the front radius section of the right skid. Immediately, the helicopter tumbled vertically to where the bottom of the aircraft was seen for a split second.

The helicopter then disintegrated violently and immediately with water, parts and debris flying into the path of the boat which was still traveling at a speed of about 85 mph. He instinctively turned the boat to the right and ducked down. The passenger, in the boat with him, also ducked as they passed through the flying debris and wreckage. He recalled the sound of pieces of the helicopter hitting the boat as they passed. At this point they were already turning in a clockwise direction. They continued in the circle 270 degrees back to where the helicopter had crashed. He pulled up just seaward of the debris field, put the boat in neutral and shut of the motors.

The witness called 911 on the cell phone at 10 AM; according to the call log in his cell phone. He reported a helicopter crash in the Gulf of Mexico south or outside of Big Pass. He was actually not aware that they were as close to Venice as they were.

The helicopter’s top section, instrument panels, engine, transmission, dive shaft, tail boom, bottom section, skids, and rotor head with sections of the main rotor blades were recovery from under the water, relative to the point of impact. The damage to the recovered components was consistent with a high speed impact. The helicopter’s four doors were retrieved; they were removed and left at the fix base operations facility from where the helicopter departed from before the accident flight.