The pilot and lone occupant of a Robinson R44 helicopter died when the aircraft he was in crashed. The helicopter reportedly hit power lines on its way back to an event after refueling and plummeted into the Fox River in Wisconsin. This crash is just one of many involving Robinson helicopters, some in the United States and others overseas.
27-Year-Old Pilot Died in Wisconsin Helicopter Crash
According to reports, 27-year-old Jonathan D. Bahr died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed into the Fox River on June 9, 2018. The helicopter was returning to Lake Winnebago from a trip to a local airport for refueling when it crashed into power lines and landed in Fox River. The power lines also fell into the river, preventing rescuers from getting access to the downed aircraft for almost two hours. Ultimately, the power company secured the downed power lines, and recovery efforts began.
Eyewitnesses reported the helicopter struck a high tension power line at around 12:30 p.m., lost part of its propeller, then sank into the river almost right away. There were boaters on the river who attempted to help Bahr but were unable to do so. Once it was safe to go in the river, divers from a variety of rescue teams worked to recover Bahr and the helicopter.
A group responsible for a powerboat event on Lake Winnebago hired a photographer to take photos of the event, called the Four Horsemen Poker Run, a charity run held from June 7 to 9. That photographer, Pete Boden, reportedly got off the helicopter as it was on its way to refuel.
Boat traffic on the river was shut down until just after 8:00 p.m. Recovery teams pulled the helicopter from the river at around 7:00 p.m. local time.
This is the second fatal helicopter crash in Wisconsin in two months. On April 26, 2018, a medical helicopter crashed in Hazelhurst, killing the three crew members aboard it. In that crash, a Eurocopter AS350 B2 crashed into a tree as it flew back from delivering a patient to a local hospital. It took more than three hours for rescuers to reach the crash site.
Robinson Helicopters Linked to U.S. Crashes
Robinson helicopters-including the Robinson R44, the model involved in the Fox River helicopter crash-have been linked to a variety of helicopter crashes in the United States and overseas.
A crash on January 4, 2017, involved a Robinson R22 in San Pedro, California, which crashed at the Port of Los Angeles during a cruise ship photo shoot. In 2016, a Robinson R66 crashed in Arizona during a flight across the U.S. On March 22, 2015, a Robinson R44 crashed into a building in Florida and caught fire.
Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a proposed airworthiness directive regarding Robinson R66 helicopters. That proposed directive came in response to reports of hazardous conditions involving Robinson R66 aircraft. Specifically, all Robinson R66 with serial numbers 0003 through 0752 that have a tail rotor drive shaft assembly part number D224-3 or D22-4-4 installed are affected by the directive, which would require a special sealant inspection and replacement of the forward yoke assembly.
“This proposed AD is prompted by reports of tail rotor driveshaft failures,” the FAA wrote. “The actions of this proposed AD are intended to correct an unsafe condition on these products.”
Meanwhile, Robinson aircraft have also been involved in crashes overseas. The New Zealand Transportation Accident Investigation Commission included Robinson aircraft to its “Most Pressing Concerns Watchlist,” following numerous accidents involving the company’s helicopters. Citing concerns about mast bump incidents, which are frequently catastrophic, New Zealand’s Department of Conservation announced it was temporarily suspending its use of Robinson helicopters, then later made the move permanent.
“Ensuring employee safety in Robinson helicopters relies heavily on pilots flying within strict operating limits at all times,” said Harry Maher, director of the Department of Conservation Safety. “We aren’t confident that we can rely on this consistently over time across the many varied conditions that DOC employees face when in helicopters.”
Robinson Helicopter Crash Attorneys
Attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman have extensive experience investigating and handling claims involving Robinson Helicopter Company and are proud to have represented the families of loved ones who have been harmed in crashes involving Robinson aircraft. Our attorneys have the expertise to manage the complexities of a helicopter crash lawsuit and can advise you of your rights and your options. Contact us for a free initial consultation.