BY ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS ASSOCIATED PRESS
An Ohio medical helicopter on its way to pick up a hospital patient made “a sharp left turn” before a crash that killed three people including the pilot last month, according to a preliminary federal report.
The report released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board said the Survival Flight helicopter, a Bell 407, made a turn to the right about 15 minutes after takeoff in suburban Columbus Jan. 29, followed by the left turn.
A Survival Flight operations control specialist observed the movements on flight tracking software, the report said.
The report said a “no-tracking alarm” activated after the left turn.
After the company lost track of the helicopter about 7:20 a.m., authorities located the wreckage nearly three hours later in rugged terrain in an area connected only by logging trails near the community of Zaleski, about 75 miles (121 kilometers) southeast of Columbus. Debris was scattered downslope over about 600 feet (183 meters).
The first rescuers on the scene detected a strong smell of fuel, the NTSB report said.
All three crew members were from Ohio: pilot Jennifer Topper, 34, of Sunbury and flight nurses Bradley Haynes, 48, of London and Rachel Cunningham, 33, of Galloway.
Two other air-medical companies opted not to accept the assignment over concerns about the weather that day.
Andy Arthurs, a Survival Flight vice president, declined comment while the investigation continues.
A follow-up report in six to nine months will include more details about the crash, with a final report several months after that to include the likely cause, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said Tuesday.