Delaware firefighter killed after falling from helicopter

This was first published on Wildfire Today.

LODD Delaware firefighterA firefighter with the Lewes Fire Department in Delaware was killed Monday night when he fell from a State Police helicopter during monthly hoist training.

Below is an excerpt from Delaware Online:

..”Two volunteer firemen, along with a pilot and a trooper medic, were on board the helicopter,” said DSP spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz. “As one of the firefighters stepped out onto the skid, at an undetermined height, he fell to the grassy area below the helicopter. At that point, the helicopter immediately landed, and the trooper medic and volunteer firefighter on board immediately responded and began medical assistance.”

Other firefighters rushed to the scene and assisted, Bratz said. The firefighter was transported to Beebe Healthcare, where he was pronounced dead. No one else on the scene got medical attention…

The Lewes Fire Department posted this message on their Facebook page:

It is with deep, deep regret that the Officers and Members of the Lewes Fire Department announce the passing of one of our own earlier today. Further details on remembrance services are to follow.

Our sincere condolences go out to the friends and family of the firefighter.

Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities — United States, 2000–2013

Aviation Fatality Map wildland fireThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published the results of a study that collected information about aviation-related fatalities of wildland firefighters between 2000 and 2013. You can see the entire paper HERE (see page 793), but most of it is below.

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Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities — United States, 2000–2013
Weekly
July 31, 2015 / 64(29);793-796

Corey R. Butler, MS1, Mary B. O’Connor, MS2, Jennifer M. Lincoln, PhD2 (Author affiliations at end of text)

Airplanes and helicopters are integral to the management and suppression of wildfires, often operating in high-risk, low-altitude environments. To update data on aviation-related wildland firefighting fatalities, identify risk factors, and make recommendations for improved safety, CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analyzed reports from multiple data sources for the period 2000–2013. Among 298 wildland firefighter fatalities identified during 2000–2013, 78 (26.2%) were aviation-related occupational fatalities that occurred during 41 separate events involving 42 aircraft. Aircraft crashes accounted for 38 events. Pilots, copilots, and flight engineers represented 53 (68%) of the aviation-related fatalities. The leading causes of fatal aircraft crashes were engine, structure, or component failure (24%); pilot loss of control (24%); failure to maintain clearance from terrain, water, or objects (20%); and hazardous weather (15%). To reduce fatalities from aviation-related wildland firefighting activities, stringent safety guidelines need to be followed during all phases of firefighting, including training exercises. Crew resource management techniques, which use all available resources, information, equipment, and personnel to achieve safe and efficient flight operations, can be applied to firefighting operations.

Airplanes and helicopters play a major role in the control of wildland (forest, brush, and grass) fires. These aircraft are used to deliver equipment and supplies, deploy and transport firefighters, conduct reconnaissance, scout and direct operations, and deliver fire retardant or water. During the past decade, the United States has experienced an increase in the size, frequency, and severity of wildfires, likely attributable to buildup of flammable vegetation, decline in snowpack, and human development in the wildland urban interface (1,2). If these conditions continue, more fire response workers will be needed, and the demand on aviation to support these efforts will increase.

To identify risk factors for aviation-related wildland firefighter activities, NIOSH reviewed and extracted case reports from the Fire Administration Firefighter Fatality surveillance system, the National Fire Protection Association Fire Incident Data Organization database, the National Wildland Coordinating Group’s Safety Gram, and the National Transportation Safety Board aviation database. A wildland firefighter fatality was defined as any death that occurred in a paid or unpaid wildland firefighter, contractor, aviation crew member or support staff, inmate, or member of the military while performing official wildland fire duties, including operations (fire or nonfire incident), responding to or returning from a wildland fire incident, or other officially assigned duties.* Other emergency response workers who were fatally injured at wildfires were excluded from this analysis. The number of flight hours for the U.S. Forest Service was used as a denominator to indicate the use of aviation resources because flight hours from other agencies or workforce numbers were not available.

During 2000–2013, a total of 298 wildland firefighter fatalities were identified, averaging 21 fatalities per year. Among these, 78 (26.2%) were caused by activities associated with aviation. The number of aviation- related fatalities decreased during 2007–2013, compared with 2000–2006 (Table 1). Of the persons who died in aviation-related activities, 76 (97%) were male, and 53 (68%) were flight crew members (e.g., pilots, copilots, and flight engineers). The average age of flight crew victims was 49 years (range = 20–66 years) and of nonflight crew victims was 33 years (range = 19–54 years). The most common occupation of nonflight crew members was firefighter. Most victims were employed by aerial contractors (42), followed by the federal government (15), state government agencies (10), ground contractors (seven), and the military (four). Twenty-five (32%) of the aviation-related fatalities occurred in California, eight occurred in Nevada, and seven in Idaho (Figure).

Aviation Fatalities wildland fire

Continue reading “Aviation-Related Wildland Firefighter Fatalities — United States, 2000–2013”

Several teams helping manage helicopter crash incident

(UPDATED at 9 a.m. MDT, April 2, 2015)

Below is information released by the incident management team that is helping to manage the helicopter crash incident in Mississippi.

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On Monday, March 30, 2015, a helicopter assisting with a controlled burn on the De Soto National Forest crashed killing two firefighters and injuring a third. Killed were Brandon Ricks, 40, of Oklahoma, a pilot for T&M Aviation of Abbeville, Louisiana and Steve Cobb, 55, of Wiggins, Mississippi, an engineering technician for De Soto National Forest. Injured was Brendan Mullen, 42, a supervisory forestry technician from Helena National Forest in Montana.

Our hearts go out to the families and friends of Brandon Ricks and Steve Cobb and we wish a rapid recovery for Brendan Mullen. Cards or letters of support to the Cobb family can be sent to De Soto Ranger District at 654 West Frontage Road. Wiggins, MS 39577. We will post information on how to send condolences to the Ricks family when we receive it.

Brendan Mullen is recovering with burns on approximately 15 percent of his body. He is stable and will require skin grafts. Cards and letters of support for him can be sent to Helena National Forest, ATTN: Helena Aviation Center, 2880 Skyway Drive, Helena, MT 59602. You can also follow his progress and wish him well at CaringBridge.

The Regional Forester arrived to meet with Desoto District employees. Critical Response Protocol Teams arrived to assist employees. ASC Benefits Counselors have been assigned to assist affected employees/families. The helicopter fuselage has been removed from the site. The Southern Area (Red) Type 1 Incident Management Team is providing facilitation/coordination and information flow between the Critical Stress Protocol Teams and Forest employees.

The Team will continue to provide facilitation, coordination, and information flow between the National Forests in Mississippi and the Desoto Ranger District with the National Transportation Safety Board, Critical Response Protocol Teams, Albuquerque Service Center and local law enforcement, fire department and affected businesses. The Red Team will initiate planning for memorial service tentatively scheduled for Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4.

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(Originally published at 11:48 a.m. MDT, April 1, 2015)

In addition to the ongoing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, Stephanie Johnson, a spokesperson for the U. S. Forest Service, said the agency has dispatched three teams to manage the helicopter crash incident in southern Mississippi on the Desoto National Forest.

Two were killed in the crash, pilot Brandon Wicks of T & M Aviation, and Stephen W. Cobb of the USFS. Supervisory Forestry Technician Brendan Mullen of the USFS was injured and transported to a hospital.

A short version of Mike Dueitt’s Type 1 Incident Management Team was ordered on March 30. Typically on an incident like this an IMT will handle operational details, as well as work with the families of the victims to plan the final arrangements including in some cases a memorial service that might be attended by a large number of people.

A Critical Response Protocol team will be reviewing the accident to determine if there are any lessons to be learned.

And finally, a Critical Incident Stress team will assist employees and others in recovering emotionally from the tragedy.

Air tanker pilot killed in Spain

From Waypoint Airmed & Rescue, dated May 26, 2014:

A pilot was killed when the AT802 plane she was flying crashed into a hillside during a firefighting mission in Almeria, Spain, at around 14:20 hrs on 25 May. The 40-year-old woman, named in reports as Sonia Morales Martínez, was part of an INFOCA team tackling a wildfire in the Sierra de Los Filabres in the Serón area. INFOCA released a statement of condolence to the pilot’s family, noting that she had extensive experience in aerial firefighting including over 5,000 hours’ flight time on this model of plane. She also served as a flight instructor.

Witnesses reported seeing unusual movements in the plane’s tail before it fell to the ground and burst into flames. It is believed that the pilot was killed on impact.

A Spanish language article about the accident can be found at ABCandalucia.

Our sincere condolences go out to the friends, co-workers,and family of Ms. Martinez.

Cause of helicopter hoist fatality similar to earlier rappel death

Harness connection
A demonstration of the improper harness connection. Air Force photo.

An investigative report determined that the cause of a fatality that occurred to a volunteer while he was being lowered by a helicopter’s hoist over the Sequoia National Forest was similar to a previous rappelling accident that killed a U.S. Forest Service employee in 2009.

Use of hoist
File photo. Pararescuemen from the 304th Rescue Squadron Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., practice their rescue skills with an HH-60 Pave Hawk and crew from the 305th RQS at nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ruby Zarzyczny

The Air Force report released last week by the Virginia-based Air Combat Command said improper rigging and inadequate oversight caused the death of Shane Krogen, executive director of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, 30 miles east of Visalia, California, on September 12, 2013.

Mr. Krogen was participating in an environmental clean-up and restoration of a contaminated marijuana grow site in the Sequoia National Forest that was carried out by California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing. While preparing to be lowered by the hoist on an HH-60G Pavehawk helicopter, a variant of a Blackhawk, Mr. Krogen mistakenly attached the aircraft’s hoist to a non-load-bearing plastic D-ring of a tactical vest instead of to the load-bearing metal D-ring of his harness. When the plastic D-ring broke, Mr. Krogen fell from the aircraft to the ground from an approximate 45-foot hover and sustained fatal injuries.

The report concluded that the helicopter crew’s safety man did not maintain adequate oversight during flight and hoist operations and that Mr. Krogen’s use of his personal equipment “excessively cluttered the area around the load-bearing metal D-ring”, interfering with a safe connection and visual inspection. And, “due to the extremely close proximity of the Yates harness load bearing D-ring in relation to the Condor tactical vest’s non-load bearing D-ring, and the concealment of both D-rings by the cluttered pouches on the Condor tactical vest, which included a handgun, the [safety man] incorrectly concluded the Civilian Fatality was properly secured”.

The report also said that according to the Pentagon only law enforcement personnel should be allowed on counterdrug flights and that Mr. Krogen, as a civilian, was not authorized to be on the helicopter.

Thomas Marovich, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, died on July 21, 2009 when he fell while performing routine helicopter rappelling proficiency training while assigned to the Backbone fire near Willow Creek, California. The USFS report was posted and later removed from the Lessons Learned web site, but Wildfire Today was able to report on it while it was still public. The National Transportation Safety Board Narrative revealed that Mr. Marovich’s “J” hook had been attached to a rubber “O” ring, rather than to a load-bearing Tri-link (see the photos below).

Marovich gear

Before the rappelling attempt, four people looked at or inspected Mr. Marovich’s rappelling gear: the spotter trainee who installed the “O” ring, Marovich, and in the helicopter a spotter, and another helitack crewperson who did a “buddy check”.

Two aircraft crashes in Australia connected to bushfires

Dromader M-18 air tanker
File photo of Dromader M-18 in Prineville, Oregon. Photo by Ted Quackenbush.

Two pilots were killed in Australia Wednesday and Thursday in separate crashes while they were fighting or supporting bushfires in New South Wales.

On Wednesday Peter Brereton, 60, was killed when his light plane crashed on his way back from dropping off spare parts for a helicopter used in the fire fighting efforts on the south coast of NSW October 23, 2013. After he did not return as expected a search located the wreckage Thursday morning in rugged terrain near Mt Hotham in Victoria. Eight helicopters and two fixed wing planes were involved in the search for the Cessna. He had recently retired from the Country Fire Authority as an Operations Officer for District 22 that covers Shepparton.

David Black, 43, died when his Dromader single engine air tanker crashed while fighting a fire at Wirritin in Budawang National Park, 40 kilometers west of Ulladulla, around 10 a.m. on October 24, 2013.  The Australian network ABC reported that a wing snapped off the aircraft before it went down. The crash started another bushfire which, along with high winds, was hampering efforts to reach the pilot. Other firefighting aircraft were called to the area and were attempting to slow the spread of the fire.

Our sincere condolences go out to the families and coworkers of both pilots.

Pilot killed in logging helicopter crash in Oregon

Logging helicopter crash Oregon
Logging helicopter crash in Oregon. Photo by Linn County Sheriff’s Office.

A helicopter hauling logs for a logging contractor on the Willamette National Forest crashed Monday afternoon, killing the pilot, William Bart Colantuono, 54, of Indialantic, Florida. The incident occurred in a remote area near Idanha, Oregon southeast of Salem. Mr. Colantuono had appeared in the History Channel’s series, “Ax Men”.

From KATU:

The sheriff’s office said witnesses of the crash gave deputies the following account: The helicopter, a 1962 Bell UH1B, was being used to transport logs from the cutting area to a log deck in Idanha. It had just returned after the pilot had taken a 45 minute break.

The helicopter had picked up a load when witnesses reported hearing a loud snapping sound which was followed by logs hitting the ground and it appeared the pilot had released the logs electronically, indicating the pilot knew of a problem prior to the crash.

Witnesses then saw a rotor separate from the helicopter followed by it turning upside down and falling to the ground.

The helicopter is owned by Umatilla Lift Services in Florida. Photo of of Mr. Colantuono.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Colantuono’s family and co-workers.

 

Thanks go out to Ken

NTSB report: EMS helicopter crashed after running out of fuel and failure to autorotate

(Updated at 1:51 p.m. MT, April 10, 2013)

The NTSB report mentions that the pilot was texting on his cell phone the day of the accident, including “during the accident flight”. An article at Bloomberg.com has more details about the texting, including:

…The NTSB documented at least 240 texts sent and received by the pilot during his shift the day of the accident, according to records cited by Bill Bramble, an NTSB investigator. There were 20 such texts with a coworker before and during the accident, the safety board found.

Freudenbert received four texts, three of them from a friend at work, and sent three others during the flight, according to NTSB records. He was planning to have dinner with the coworker, according to the records.

Another 13 texts were logged on his phone in the 71 minutes before the flight, including two during a previous flight, according to NTSB records.

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(Originally published April 9, 2013)

The National Transportation Safety Board has released the cause of the crash of an EMS helicopter August 26, 2011 near Mosby, Missouri. The agency’s report concludes the crash, which killed the pilot, flight nurse, flight paramedic and patient, occurred because the helicopter ran out of fuel and the failure of the pilot to execute a successful autorotation.

The finding about the possible reason for the autorotation failure after the engine failure at cruise speed may have implications for other pilots.

Below is the NTSB’s announcement:

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“April 9, 2013

NTSB DETERMINES FATAL MISSOURI HELICOPTER ACCIDENT WAS CAUSED BY FUEL EXHAUSTION, POOR DECISION MAKING AND INABILITY TO PERFORM CRITICAL FLIGHT MANEUVER

WASHINGTON — A pilot’s decision to depart on a mission despite a critically low fuel level as well as his inability to perform a crucial flight maneuver following the engine flameout from fuel exhaustion was the probable cause of an emergency medical services helicopter accident that killed four in Missouri, the National Transportation Safety Board said today.
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