Canada’s Transportation Safety Board found that a mixture of low altitude and speed caused a privately operated Bell Helicopter 206B to crash into a river, causing two fatalities. The crash also showed the need for improved emergency locator transmitter design. The board released a report Wednesday regarding the September 2016 occurrence.
The helicopter departed Sept. 4, 2016, from Charlo Airport in New Brunswick and headed for Rivière-du-Loup Airport in Quebec, the board said. The pilot and two passengers were on board. The 206B collided with power transmission cables while flying along the Restigouche River and severed them. According to the board, the aircraft was damaged “catastrophically” and then fell into the river. The pilot and front-seat passenger were killed. The rear-seat passenger survived and was helped to shore by bystanders.
“The investigation concluded that the low altitude and the speed at which the helicopter was flown made the unmarked transmission cables difficult to see and avoid,” the board said. “Intentional low-altitude flying is risky, particularly without pre-flight planning and reconnaissance, and may result in a collision with wires or other obstacles, increasing the risk of injury or death.”
Transport Canada determined after the crash that the power transmission lines did not require lighting or marking.
The board also said physiological factors had the potential to degrade the pilot’s decision-making and performance — specific effects could not be determined. According to the board, the pilot had limited sleep prior to the flight. A post-mortem toxicological exam performed on the pilot showed the presence of cannabinoids, although conclusions regarding impairment could not be made.
Although equipped with an emergency locator transmitter, the helicopter’s search and rescue satellite system did not receive a signal from it, the board said. The investigation found that the transmitter activated, but its antenna broke off and sank into the river, rendering detection “impossible.” The board said it issued four recommendations in 2016 to address deficiencies in emergency locator transmitter design standards. Internal collaboration is now underway to improve specifications, according to the board.