A Puff Of Dark-Colored Smoke Emanated From The Vicinity Of The Engine Compartment

Location: St Thomas, CB Accident Number: ERA21FA130
Date & Time: February 15, 2021, 15:14 Local Registration: N13AT
Aircraft: Bell 206 Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Aerial observation

On February 15, 2021, about 1514 Atlantic Standard time , a Bell 206B-III, N13AT, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 sightseeing flight.

According to the Director of Operations, who was also a pilot for the operator, the accident flight was a planned 17-minute sightseeing flight around the island.

A witness standing in his front yard saw the helicopter fly over his house and out over the ocean. He stated the helicopter started to make a 180° turn back toward him. At that time, the witness pulled out his mobile phone and started recording a video of the helicopter flying toward him. The local terrain had steep slopes and he was located at the peak of a steep hill. Review of the video revealed that the terrain was ascending as the helicopter flew closer to the witness. About 6 seconds after the start of the video, a puff of dark-colored smoke emanated from the vicinity of the engine compartment, which dissipated in the helicopter’s rotor wash.

The helicopter then abruptly yawed nose-left, after which the nose yawed right and the helicopter descended in a right turn toward the wooded terrain downhill from the witness. The accident site was located in heavily wooded, steep terrain and came to rest upright oriented on a heading of about 200 degrees magnetic. The landing skids, main rotor system, main rotor drive system, engine, hydraulic system, and the forward portion of the tail rotor drive system were thermally damaged by the postimpact fire. The majority of the cockpit, cabin, and flight controls were consumed by fire. A portion of the tail boom, with the horizontal stabilizers attached, was embedded upright in a tree adjacent to the main wreckage. The aftmost portion of the tail boom, with the vertical fin and tail rotor, was found about 15 feet from the tail boom section.

The engine case showed no evidence of uncontained failure. The first and second stage compressor blades had no evidence of foreign object debris (FOD) ingestion. Two blades from the third stage compressor wheel had fractured near their respective root ends and were not present. The remainder of the third stage compressor blades were present but exhibited damage primarily on their trailing edges. For the fourth, fifth, and six stage compressor wheels, all blades were fractured near their root ends and were not present. The impeller inducer exhibited evidence of hard body FOD ingestion.

The wreckage was recovered and retained for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov