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N7085U accident description

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Tail numberN7085U
Accident dateFebruary 06, 2006
Aircraft typeRobinson R44
LocationHelena, MT
Near 46.705278 N, -111.976945 W
Additional details: None

NTSB description

On February 6, 2006, approximately 0015 mountain standard time, a Robinson R44 helicopter, N7085U, was destroyed after impacting terrain near Helena, Montana. The commercial pilot, sole occupant of the helicopter, was fatally injured. The helicopter was registered to Silver State Helicopters, LLC, of North Las Vegas, Nevada, and operated by the pilot as an unauthorized flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan was filed. The personal flight, which was operated in accordance with 14 CFR Part 91 regulations, departed the Bert Mooney Airport, Butte, Montana, at an unspecified time.

In a written statement submitted by the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office to the NTSB investigator-in-charge (IIC), dated March 31, 2006, a husband and wife, who were close acquaintances of the pilot, stated that the pilot had been at their home in Helena on the evening of February 5th to watch the Super Bowl and to celebrate his twenty-first birthday. The couple knew the pilot through the husband's helicopter flight lessons, as the pilot was his instructor. The couple related that the pilot, an Italian citizen, had come to the United States when he was seventeen to learn to fly helicopters. He was due to return to Italy in a few months as his visa had expired, however, he was thinking of entering the US military so he would not have to return. The couple further stated that during the evening preceding the accident, the pilot became upset that their daughter did not want to have a relationship with him, other than friendship. The couple also reported that the pilot had been drinking alcohol while at their house (one beer), left angry, and departed for Butte, his residence, after the Super Bowl had concluded. The couple related that shortly after midnight the pilot telephoned them, said he was drunk, and that he wanted to speak with their daughter. (The message was taped on the couple's telephone answering machine). The wife reported that the pilot then told her that he was flying, losing control, and running out of fuel. She further reported that he said he was going to kill himself, as he could not go on like this any longer. She also related that it was difficult to understand what [the pilot] was saying at times.

During the post-accident investigation by local law enforcement personnel, a sheriff's department deputy who listened to the taped conversation stated, "I could hear very clearly through his statement that he was going to kill himself." The sheriff also stated that during the entire conversation he never heard the pilot say that he was having trouble controlling the helicopter, or that he was running out of fuel. It was also reported by the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office that a search of the pilot's apartment by personnel from the Butte Silverbow County Sheriff's Office, of Butte, revealed the existence of a three-page letter, which "...looks to be written and signed by [the pilot] and speaks of his pending suicide." It was also revealed by law enforcement personnel that two twelve ounce bottles of Natural Ice Beer were recovered at the accident site.

According to a written statement submitted to the IIC by a Helena Regional Airport security officer, the officer reported that he heard a man talking on the local air traffic control tower frequency at 2358. The officer stated, "His voice did not sound right; he came through broken. I heard him say he was going to kill himself, that he didn't want to hurt anyone else, that he loved the United States of America, and that he didn't want to harm anyone. The man's voice was slurred and had an accent."

In a written statement provided to the IIC by the General Manager of Silver State Helicopters, dated February 13th, the General Manager reported that the pilot was employed by Silver State Helicopters as a helicopter instructor pilot. The General Manager further reported that sometime between 2230 and 2330 on February 5th, the pilot took the helicopter, N7085U, without permission, from the Silver State Helicopters' hangar in Butte, and then made an unauthorized flight to Helena. The specific time of departure from Butte is unknown.

A Federal Aviation Administration aviation safety inspector, who traveled to the accident site, reported that the helicopter had been consumed by fire. The inspector further reported that an examination of the helicopter failed to reveal any anomalies with the helicopter, which would have precluded normal operations.

At 0053, the weather reporting facility at the Helena Regional Airport, located approximately 10 nautical miles south of the accident site, reported the wind from 290 degrees at 7 knots, visibility 10 statute miles, overcast clouds at 4,600 feet, temperature 0 degrees C, dew point minus 8 degrees C, and an altimeter setting of 30.29 inches of Mercury.

The Forensic Science Division of The Department of Justice, Missoula, Montana, conducted a postmortem examination of the pilot on February 6, 2002. The cause of death was reported as Blunt Force Injuries, and the manner of death was listed as "suicide." The Forensic Toxicology Research Section, Federal Aviation Administration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed postmortem toxicology of the specimens for the pilot. Testing was negative for carbon monoxide and cyanide. 290 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in blood, 192 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in vitreous, 175 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in muscle, 230 (mg/dL, mg/hg) Ethanol detected in brain.

(c) 2009-2011 Lee C. Baker. For informational purposes only.