The NTSB today released the preliminary report on the crash of a Firehawk Helicopters UH-60 that went down in Leesburg, Florida on May 25th.
As seen in the video posted by AerialFire on May 28th, a snorkel can be seen swinging wildly from the aircraft just a few minutes before the accident. In the document the NTSB stated that a new water tank and snorkel were recently installed on the helicopter for firefighting operations. The helicopter was only fitted with the snorkel and internal tank system in the days leading up to the accident and was making its first day of test flights on May 25th when the accident occurred.
Witness statements made to the NTSB said that the helicopter made six passes by the hangar conducting water drops from a nearby lake before the snorkel came loose and that employees of Firehawk had noticed the wild singing of the snorkel, attempting in vain to notify the pilot of the accident helicopter.
One statement referenced an employee stating that he contacted the Leesburg airport air traffic control tower asking them to inform the pilot to slow down and land immediately. Before contact was made with the pilot, the helicopter was reported to have begun gaining altitude as the snorkel continued swinging. The witness reported then hearing a loud bang, which he believed was the snorkel hitting the main rotor blades.
Another employee of the company and witness noted in a statement that she immediately started waving her arms at the pilot in an attempt to alert him to the problem when she saw the swinging snorkel, stating that as the helicopter transitioned to forward flight she ran alongside and continued waving her arms, but was not seen by the pilot of the helicopter. The witness statement also confirmed the impact, where she reported a loud bang, witnessing multiple rotor blades separate from the aircraft and hit the tail of the aircraft.
The tail rotor of the aircraft which separated from the main body of the helicopter was located approximately 78 feet north of the main crash site where the helicopter came to rest on its side. The water tank and snorkel assembly were found on the west edge of runway 3 after the crash, appearing to have been thrown from the aircraft at some point after the initial impact. The main body of the aircraft was destroyed by a post-crash fire.
See video of the accident aircraft in the minutes before the incident below where the snorkel can be observed swinging wildly.