NTSB: I-70 Helicopter Victims Mulled Driving

By Staff Writer | August 4, 2009
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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released a preliminary report on the I-70 helicopter crash in Maryland that resulted in the deaths of four people onboard. The Robinson R44 helicopter struck a guy wire that crossed I-70 near Boonsboro the night of July 23 and crashed just off the roadway. Advanced Helicopter Concepts (AHC), a nonprofit charity organization based at Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), was maintaining the helicopter for a private owner. While the NTSB report does not reveal who piloted the R44, media outlets have identified the pilot as Jeffrey Nordaas, 24, of Columbia, Md. Two of the passengers—Niall Booth, 43 and George Tutor, 39—were employees of AHC. Kim Felix, 48, was the other passenger. NTSB notes that on the day of the accident, the helicopter flew from FDK to Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) to transport passengers, followed by sightseeing rides for an Advanced Helicopters Youth Foundation event. After finishing the rides, the pilot called another AHC employee to ask about weather conditions for the return flight to FDK. The employee said conditions were “miserable” and offered to drive to HGR to pick up the pilot and passengers, but the pilot said he would “wait out” the storm, calling the employee back around an hour later, at around 10:00 pm. According to NTSB, the employee relayed that the rain had stopped, but said it was still foggy with wind and lightning in the area. He renewed the offer to pick them up. The pilot declined, and NTSB estimates that the helicopter took off from HGR at around 10:15 pm. One witness driving eastbound on I-70 described the helicopter appearing to fly into “low clouds,” and turn around to head west when it hit the power lines, crashed into the ground and “burst into flames.” Another witness said the helicopter was flying parallel with the interstate when it “seemed to be getting lower” and faded out of view, followed shortly after with “sparks in the sky.”
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