A Robinson R44 helicopter crashed into a guest house in a College Park, Florida neighborhood last Sunday afternoon, killing the pilot and two passengers. The deceased have been identified as 48-year-old pilot Bruce Teitelbaum, his 55-year-old wife Marsha Khan, and their friend Harry Anderson, 42.
Witnesses reported the crash at around 2:30 p.m. “There is smoke everywhere,” said a 911 caller, who was later identified as a neighbor. Another person called in and said a fire was blazing after the helicopter “just landed on the house.” Despite the large fire, no injuries were reported on the ground.
According to WESH, the three departed from Orlando Executive Airport on what was reportedly a site seeing trip. After flying for only a couple of miles, Teitelbaum radioed to air traffic controllers requesting to return to the airport. Unfortunately, he was unable to make it back.
Witnesses reported hearing the R44 helicopter flying low, making unusual noises before it descended into a tree canopy. One witness saw the helicopter’s main rotor blades break apart as the aircraft descended through the trees. The helicopter then hit a power line transformer before colliding with the house and exploding into fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the crash. Board member Eric Alleyne said they are looking at the R44’s engine and flight controls, among many other variables. Their preliminary report, issued today, brought to light no new information on what might have happened to cause the fatal crash.
Last month, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia issued an emergency airworthiness directive grounding all R44 helicopters with a particular rotor blade that had been linked to recent crashes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also issued an airworthiness directive issued in January, warning R44 pilots to check their rotor blades for “debonding of the blade skin, which could result in blade failure and subsequent loss of control of the helicopter.”
While officials have not said that rotor blades were a factor in Sunday’s crash, you can bet investigators will make them a point of emphasis.