On the night of Thursday, April 26, the crash of a Eurocopter AS 350 Air Ambulance helicopter in rural Oneida County near Hazelhurst, claimed the lives of all three crew members on board. Personnel from area agencies including those from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), were soon on-scene to investigate.
On Monday, May 7, the NTSB released a preliminary crash report, detailing early findings of the investigation.
The details of the report lend key details surrounding the crash, but leaves a fair amount of mystery as to the cause.
As reported, the pilot; identified as 34-year old Rico Caruso, radioed of the aircraft’s departure from Dane County Regional Airport-Truax Field at approximately 9:04 PM. The crew had transported a patient to a Madison area hospital earlier in the day. Prior to take-off; bound for Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff, the aircraft had received 80 gallons of fuel.
The radio transmission would be the only communication established with the aircraft or it’s crew. When the Air Ambulance did not arrive at HYMC at it’s scheduled time, search procedures began immediately according to the report.
“According to initial information, the pilot radioed that he departed from MSN. The helicopter did not arrive at its destination at its estimated arrival time, and the operator started their search procedures for the helicopter. The
Air Force Rescue Coordination Center placed a call to the operator and advised that an emergency locator transmitter signal associated with the helicopter was received by the center. The center informed the operator of a latitude and longitude in which to look for the helicopter. The helicopter was subsequently found near that location about 0215 on (Friday) April 27, 2018.”
The aircraft reportedly impacted trees and terrain during cruise flight and was destroyed during the impact
Further details of the report indicate; as of his last certification in May of last year, Caruso had logged 3,200 hours of flight time, with 100 hours logged in the preceding 6 months. His most recent training was in January of this year, when he satisfactorily passed a check ride (an examination conducted by the FAA, which one must undergo to receive an aircraft pilot’s certification, or an endorsement for additional flight privileges).
Weather conditions were reported to have been favorable on the night of the crash, as area airports (Minocqua, Rhinelander and Eagle River) recorded temperatures between 32 and 35 degrees with calm winds.
“The helicopter was found in a wooded area,” the preliminary report goes on to state.
“First Responders indicated that the sky was clear, the moon was visible, and there was a smell of fuel
at the time the helicopter was located. However, the wreckage did not exhibit any signs of fire.
A ground impression about 11 ft by 9 ft and 2 ft deep was found in front of the helicopter wreckage. The helicopter came to rest on its right side. During the on-scene examination, the smell of fuel was present at the site and in the ground below the helicopter. All major components of the helicopter were located at the site. The cockpit and cabin area was destroyed. The fuselage exhibited rearward crushing deformation.”
The helicopter was equipped with an Appareo Vision 1000 recorder unit, which records to both a removable secure data (SD) card and internal memory. Both the unit and the SD card sustained impact damage. The unit and its SD card were shipped to the National Transportation Safety Board Recorder Laboratory to see if they contain data in reference to the accident flight.
The final report from the NTSB could take as long as a year or more, to be released.
Many thinks to Merrill Foto News partner, WJFW Newswatch 12 for their assistance with this update.