The National Transportation Safety Board released the preliminary aviation accident report outlining their initial investigation findings for the helicopter crash that killed four people outside of Colusa earlier this month.
Officers from the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office and Sacramento River Fire Department personnel responded to reports of a helicopter crash in a tomato field in the area near State Route 45 and Reservation Road, just outside of Colusa at approximately 1:15 p.m. Aug. 1.
Upon arrival, first responders located four passengers on board the helicopter that were all confirmed dead at the scene.
The victims of the crash were later identified as William “Bill” Bernard Vann, 67, Suzanne Marie Vann, 60, and Bobbie Lee Keaton, 62, all residents of Williams. The fourth passenger was identified as Charles “Chuck” Thomas Wilson, 71, of Rocklin.
According to the report, the helicopter, identified as a Robinson R66 helicopter which operated for personal flight, had departed Willows just after noon and flew west toward the foothills.
“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 report said. “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 two 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, according to the report.
A witness that was driving in the area at the time reported that he noticed a helicopter flying on an easterly heading about 50 to 100 feet above ground level, 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 report said. “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.”
According to the report, the helicopter was substantially damaged in the accident.
“Wreckage debris was scattered within a 360 ft long and 392 ft wide area,” the report said. “All major structural components of the helicopter were located throughout the debris area.”
The wreckage was recovered to a secure location for further examination, according to the report.
Jennifer Gabris, media relations for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the final report will take between 12-24 months to complete and will include an analysis and probable cause.