Provide(d) Aerial Support To Ground Brpd Units That Were Conducting A High-Speed Pursuit

Location: Port Allen, LA Accident Number: CEN23FA142
Date & Time: March 26, 2023, 02:38 Local Registration: N441PD
Aircraft: Robinson Helicopter Company R44 II Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation – Aerial observation

On March 26, 2023, about 0238 central daylight time, a Robinson R44 II helicopter, N441PD, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Port Allen, Louisiana. The pilot and tactical flight officer sustained fatal injuries. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 aerial observation flight.

According to Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) personnel and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) data, the BRPD helicopter, call sign Air 1, departed the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR), Baton Rouge, Louisiana, about 0226, to provide aerial support to ground BRPD units that were conducting a high-speed pursuit of a fleeing vehicle. Air 1 advised dispatch and ground units via radio that they were assisting and requested updates to the vehicle movement and location. ADS-B data showed the helicopter depart BTR to the south, turn west, then overfly Highway 190, west of Baton Rouge. Unable to maintain a safe pursuit of the vehicle, BRPD terminated the pursuit to all BRPD units, including the helicopter, via radio at 0235. There were no further communications received from the helicopter. About that time, the data showed the helicopter execute a shallow left deviation to the south of Highway 190. Following the deviation, a left turn initiated, and the turn rate increased, followed by a series of turns and altitude changes. The ADS-B data ended at 0238 at an altitude of about 1,450 above  round level. There were no witnesses to the accident. 

According to the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s office, at 1049, a family member reported that the tactical flight officer had not returned home, and his cellular phone was sending a signal from a remote area in West Baton Rouge Parish. The sheriff’s department searched the area and located the helicopter at 1114.

The main wreckage, which consisted of the cockpit, fuselage, and tailcone, came to rest inverted next to an irrigation ditch at the edge of a sugar cane field.

The main rotor transmission, mast, and main rotor blades came to rest in a wooded area about 250 feet east of the main wreckage. Fragmented windshield Plexiglass, forward and upper cockpit structure, instrument console components, and observer station (left seat) equipment were scattered between the main rotor assembly and main wreckage. The helicopter was equipped with a 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter, which was found separated from the mounting structure, and the antenna wire was severed about 4 inches from the transmitter. 

The helicopter wreckage was retained for further examination.