Witness: Helicopter Was Initially Straight And Level, However, Suddenly Made A Sharp Left Turn

Location: Colusa, CA Accident Number: WPR21FA300
Date & Time: August 1, 2021, 12:51 Local Registration: N7000J
Aircraft: Robinson Helicopter Co R66 Injuries: 4 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Personal

On August 1, 2021, about 1251 Pacific daylight time, a Robinson R66 helicopter, N7000J, was substantially damaged when it was involved in an accident near Colusa, California. The pilot and 3 passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

A witness, who was driving south on a highway about 0.5 miles east of the accident site, reported that he noticed a helicopter flying on an easterly heading about 50 to 100 ft above ground level (agl), and initially thought it may have been a crop duster. The witness stated that the helicopter was initially straight and level, however, suddenly made a sharp left turn. The witness briefly lost sight of the helicopter due to trees and when he reestablished visual contact, he observed the helicopter descend into the ground.

Recorded Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) showed that at 1207, the helicopter had departed Willows, California, and flew toward the foothills which bordered the western edge of the valley.

The ADS-B data showed that the helicopter turned south while over Elk Creek, California, and overflew Lodoga, and Stonyford, California, before a turn to the east was initiated. The helicopter continued on an easterly heading for about 12 minutes, and then turned to a southeasterly heading. The helicopter remained on a southeasterly heading for about 2 minutes, and then initiated a left turn to an easterly heading, about 0.7 miles west of the accident. The ADS-B data contained no altitude data for the entire flight.

Examination of the accident site revealed that the helicopter impacted open terrain on a heading of about 090°. Wreckage debris was scatted within a 360 ft long and 392 ft wide area as depicted in figure 2. All major structural components of the helicopter were located throughout the debris area. The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov