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NTSB report: Helicopter was ‘rocking back and forth unsteadily’ before fatal Williamsburg crash

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – The National Transportation Safety Board released its report on the fatal helicopter crash that claimed the lives of two people in Williamsburg earlier this month.

On July 8 around 4:33 p.m., a Robinson R44-II, N616HS crashed into a two-story apartment building in Williamsburg. The pilot, 85-year-old Henry Schwarz, and an elderly resident, 91-year-old Jean Danylko, died as a result of the crash. Schwarz was the state president and a founding member of Virginia Helicopter Associated, which was established in 2006.

In the report, the NTSB says no flight plan was filed for the flight, which originated from Williamsburg-Jamestown Airport (JGG) around 4:40 p.m. that day. It was headed to Stafford Regional Airport (RMN) in Stafford.

Schwarz had flown from RMN to the JGG earlier that morning to attend a meeting. Airport personnel said the helicopter had been refueled before it departed.

Several witnesses who were near the site at the time of the crash said the helicopter was flying low; one person estimated that its height was around 100 feet above the ground as it approached the apartment building.

They said the helicopter was flying relatively straight and level or slightly descending before it suddenly pitched nose down and descended into the roof of the building. One witness said the helicopter was “rocking back and forth unsteadily” right before it pitched downward. Another man who was about 100 yards south of the crash site said the engine was making a “constant sound” as it flew over his head.

An examination of the wreckage revealed that all the major components of the helicopter were present at the crash site except the tail boom, the tail rotor and the tail rotor gearbox. Many of the components were partially or completely destroyed by a fire after the crash.

The NTSB’s report said that a review of helicopter maintenance logbooks showed the the aircraft’s most recent annual inspection was performed by the helicopter manufacturer on August 24, 2017. The most recent recorded maintenance was an oil change, which was done on January 26, 2018.

Click here to read the full report.