HERTFORD, N.C. – The National Transportation Safety Board has released their preliminary report on a Duke Life Flight helicopter crash that occurred September 8 in Perquimans County that resulted in the deaths of four people.
In the report, the NTSB outlines what happened before the crash, and describes the wreckage and condition of the helicopter after it crashed.
The helicopter was carrying a commercial pilot, two flight nurses, and one patient when it crashed on a wind turbine farm at approximately 11:20 a.m.
The report says when the pilot last contacted the company operations center at 11:08 a.m., he advised they had two hours of fuel and were heading to the Duke University North Heliport.
Witnesses on the ground said they saw smoke coming from the helicopter. One witness said the helicopter was “hovering” and “not traveling forward” while it was above the wind turbine farm. Another witness said they heard a “popping noise” before seeing the helicopter turn left, then right before making what appeared to be a controlled descent toward the ground.
All of the major components of the helicopter were at the crash site, the report says. The cabin had collapsed downward and had been partially consumed by a post-crash fire.
Investigators found the on-board audio and video recording system. The unit was damaged by fire but the memory device was intact. The unit was sent to the NTSB vehicle recorder lab for examination.
The helicopter was also retained for further examination.
After the crash, Duke Life Flight released the identities of the victims: Pilot Jeff Burke and nurses Crystal Sollinger and Kris Harrison. The fourth victim was identified as 70-year-old retired nurse Mary Bartlett of Elizabeth City.