Commercial, Safety

U.S. NTSB Takes Over Investigation of Bahamas AW139 Crash That Killed Seven

By Dan Parsons | July 9, 2019
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Wreckage of the AW139 that crashed in the Bahamas on July 4, killing seven passengers, is recovered from the Atlantic Ocean. (Bahamas AAID photo)

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board has taken over investigation of the July 4 helicopter crash in the northern Bahamas that killed seven Americans.

Wreckage of the AW139 helicopter has been recovered from the ocean two miles from Grand Cay, Bahamas.

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In the early morning of July 4, an AW139 helicopter carrying a pilot and six passengers took off from a private island in the northern Abacos. Just minutes later, the aircraft crashed in shallow water, killing all aboard. The cause of the crash remains under investigation. The FAA reported the helicopter was on initial climb and operating as a personal flight.

On board the helicopter were two pilots, coal billionaire Chris Cline, his daughter, and three of her friends. The wreckage was recovered on July 6 and taken to Florida for examination.

On July 7, the Bahamas Air Accident Investigation Department (AAID) said the helicopter’s flight data recorders were recovered and would be shipped to NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C. for analysis. Investigators were by then on-site documenting wreckage to determine if the complete craft was recovered.

“The wreckage has been shipped to the United States where it will be laid out, documented and catalogued at the facility to verify all of the craft was recovered,” the AAID said in a statement. “Following confirmation of the complete craft at the site, analysis and further documentation including sampling and removal of certain parts / components will occur, where these parts or components will be sent to other facilities (as appropriate) for further analysis under more controlled conditions.”

On July 9, the AAID confirmed it has handed over the investigation to the NTSB and would refer all further questions to the U.S. agency. A preliminary cause of the accident likely will not be available for weeks.

“The AAID has delegated the investigation of this accident to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the USA,” the Bahamian agency said in a statement.

The AW139 is built by Leonardo Helicopters. Officials from the Italian manufacturer are assisting with investigating the state of manufacture of the aircraft. Canadian officials — where the Pratt & Whitney PT6 engines are built — also are assisting the investigation, according to the AAIB.

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