Report: CareFlight pilot did not see power lines before Butler County crash

The pilot of a CareFlight medical helicopter that crashed last month in Butler County said he did not see the power lines before the main rotor blades hit them, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Miami Valley’s CareFlight was requested just before 5 a.m. July 26 to the scene of a deadly crash involving two pickup trucks at U.S. 127 and Hamilton Eaton Road in Milford Twp.

ExplorePREVIOUS COVERAGE: CareFlight crashes, damages sheriff’s cruisers at Butler County fatal crash site

The pilot said that about nine miles from the crash scene, he asked for information about the site, and the fire department on scene said there were high voltage wires on the south side of the landing zone, according to the report.

The pilot told the NTSB he knew winds were calm, so he flew around the crash site to approach from the south. He said he was watching for power lines but didn’t think they would be in and around the landing zone.

As he approached, he said he couldn’t find the wires, even while wearing night vision goggles, the report said. He could see the electrical tower, but did not know which direction wires were running, and even by moving the landing light up and down could not find them.

Ultimately, the report said, the pilot decided the wires were further out from the landing zone and descended.

At about 30 to 50 feet from the ground, the main rotor blades hit the wires, severing one, and the helicopter fell and landed hard, the report said.

ExplorePHOTOS: Medical helicopter crashes at fatal crash site in Butler County

All three crew members suffered minor injuries, the report said, but the helicopter sustained “substantial” damage.

A Federal Aviation Administration inspector quoted in the report said all main rotor blades were snapped in half, and the main rotor gearbox and mounts were fractured. In addition, the left engine was hanging from the engine mounts, the stabilizer was bent and substantially damaged, the skids were damaged, and the helicopter came to rest on its left side, with all its weight on a single blade buried in the ground.

Butler County Sheriff’s Capt. Morgan Dallman said that two cruisers were damaged when the helicopter crashed – one by debris that shattered a window and another by the falling power lines that fell across it. No firefighters or deputies were injured.

Marsha G. Cottongim, 69, of Richmond, Indiana, died of multiple traumatic injuries in the crash, and her death was ruled an accident, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office.

Cottongim was a rear passenger in a 1998 Chevrolet Silverado headed east on Hamilton Eaton Road that proceeded through the intersection into the path of a 2013 GMC Sierra headed north on U.S. 127, Dallman said.

A front passenger in the Silverado, a 43-year-old woman, had to be extricated and was taken to an area hospital with serious injuries. Two other occupants of the Silverado suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital. The crash happened as the four family members were taking one family member home from a hospital, Dallman said.

The driver of the Sierra, who was the lone occupant, was not injured.

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