A helicopter traveling to Galveston Island from an oil tanker offshore crashed into Galveston Bay on February 6, 2017, killing one of the two passengers aboard but sparing the lives of the pilot and second passenger. It is the second fatal helicopter crash in recent months to make headlines, following the crash of a helicopter into the Los Angeles Port in January 2017.
Bell 206 Helicopter Was Returning from Oil Tanker
The helicopter involved in the Galveston Bay crash, a Bell 206B owned by Santa Fe-based Republic Helicopters Inc., was used to transfer passengers between an offshore oil tanker and Galveston Island. On the night of the Galveston Bay helicopter crash the chopper was carrying two employees of SGS-an oil and gas company-and the pilot. The passengers were being transported back from the Eagle Vancouver tanker, about 50 miles off shore.
Contact with the Bell 206 was lost at approximately 7:00 p.m. as the aircraft neared Galveston Island.
Cause of Galveston Bay Helicopter Crash Unknown
Following the Galveston Bay helicopter crash, Republic Helicopters released the following statement:
On the evening of February 6, 2017 at approximately 1915 there was an incident involving a Republic Helicopters Inc. aircraft. The aircraft made an unscheduled landing in the water in West Galveston Bay with three people on board. The pilot and 1 passenger are being treated at UTMB Galveston. There was one fatality. We are cooperating fully with the NTSB and the FAA, whose investigation is ongoing. Please keep our crew and customers in your prayers.
Neither officials nor Republic Helicopters have stated a possible cause of the helicopter crash, and no comments have been made on whether weather was a factor.
The Coast Guard was notified shortly before 8:00 p.m., after the Bell 206 lost contact. They sent out a helicopter and small boat to begin search efforts for the aircraft.
Ultimately, however, it was a boat from the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office that first found the helicopter wreckage and the surviving men. The downed aircraft was only about 2.5 miles from Jamaica Beach on Galveston Island.
Republic Helicopters is working on recovering the submerged Bell 206 from West Galveston Bay to aid in investigation efforts.
Pilot and Additional Passenger Survived
The pilot, whose name has not been released, and SGS employee Simeon Anugwom, were both rescued following the helicopter crash, and then taken to University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) for treatment. On Tuesday, February 7, 2017, both Anugwom and the pilot remained at UTMB, with Republic Helicopter saying that the “outlook remains positive.”
SGS Employee Killed in Texas Helicopter Accident
The single fatality in the crash was 58-year-old Warren Moore, who had worked as an inspector with SGS for 30 years. According to medical examiner’s investigator John Florence, Moore died of multiple blunt force trauma caused when the helicopter crashed.
Moore’s family spoke of his love of the time he spent offshore.
“He loved going offshore for the inspections and crude oil ships, loved, I mean just loved going offshore and loved fishing and everything else,” Walter Moore, Warren’s brother said when speaking with Click2Houston.
Moore’s son, Warren Ray, echoed that sentiment.
“He’d go out to these ships and take his samples as far as everything until the work is done then he would go out with the crew he’d go fishing off the deck,” Warren Ray Moore remembered in an interview with KHOU.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the deceased Moore, who family say was soon to retire. The page aims to raise money for Moore’s funeral expenses, and as of February 20, 2017, the page had raised $15,865 of its $5,000 goal.
Oil-Related Helicopter Crashes Often Fatal
Helicopters serve as the primary mode of transportation between oil rigs or oil tankers and shore, and helicopter crashes during these flights are not uncommon.
On September 26, 2016, a helicopter was traveling to a Chevron-operated Tombua-Landana platform in Angola with a pilot and five passengers aboard when it crashed. All six people were killed in the crash. The remains of four were located immediately and search and rescue personnel conducted an extensive effort for the remaining two.
Earlier that year, on April 29, 2016, a helicopter returning from a Norwegian oil platform crashed into the North Sea. Two crew and 11 passengers were aboard the Airbus Helicopters H225 Super Puma and all were killed in the crash, which “completely destroyed” the chopper.
After the devastating crash, Norway and Britain initially suspended all commercial flights of the H225 Super Puma, and Airbus would later expand the temporary grounding to their entire commercial fleet. There were reports that the rotor blades separated from the helicopter while it was flying, leading to fears that there was a design or manufacturing defect.
Bell 206 Involved in Well-Known Crashes
The Bell 206B, the type of helicopter involved in the fatal Galveston Bay crash, has made headlines before for high profile crashes.
On February 18, 2016, a Bell 206B crashed into the ocean near Honolulu, Hawaii during an emergency landing. A 16-year-old boy visiting from Canada died from injuries resulting from the crash of the sightseeing helicopter. In interviews with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the pilot reported feeling a vibration that was followed by a grinding noise and then a loud bang. Noticing that the rotor RPM were decreasing, he attempted to land the aircraft, eventually crashing into the water.
In perhaps the most famous crash involving a Bell 206, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed on August 27, 1990 while flying out from Alpine Valley Resort in Wisconsin. Also on board were the pilot and three members of Eric Clapton’s crew, who were also killed in the crash.
The NTSB ruled the cause of the fatal helicopter crash to be “improper planning/decision by the pilot, and his failure to attain adequate altitude before flying over rising terrain at night.” Additional factors included darkness, fog, and rising terrain.