By FARRAH JOHNSON
THE helicopter crash that killed American billionaire Chris Cline and six other passengers occurred shortly after take off, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported.
According to the board, the aircraft, which took off from Big Grand Cay, Abaco, on July 4, was in the air for one minute before it dropped 40-50 feet, and plunged into the Atlantic Ocean.
The helicopter was found upside down in “about 16 ft of water about 1.2 nm north-northeast of the departure point,” with all five of its main rotor blades and all four of its tail rotor blades separated.
While the NTSB did not provide a specific cause for the accident, the report states that a witness saw the helicopter spinning briefly before the crash occurred.
“Another witness, who was located about 1.6 nm (nautical miles) southwest of the accident site reported seeing the helicopter lift off and climb to between 40 and 50 ft above ground level; then shortly thereafter, he noted blue and white lights spinning to the left at a rate of about one to two seconds between rotations while descending,” the preliminary report said.
“He estimated that the helicopter rotated to the left three to four times. He then heard a ‘whoosh whoosh whoosh’ sound, and lost sight of the helicopter, which was followed by the sound of an impact.”
The report also noted that the witness went out on his boat with searchlights in an attempt to locate the helicopter, but was unsuccessful.
The NTSB said the Federal Aviation Administration “issued an alert notice for the overdue flight” almost 14 hours after the aircraft took off and about an hour later, it was located by local residents.
The helicopter, which was carrying the coal tycoon, his daughter, Kameron, 22, and five others, was on its way to Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport to take two of the passengers to Florida for medical treatment.
The NTSB said that all of the wreckage recovered will be retained for further examination. A full report on the crash is expected in two years.