I-TEAM: NTSB spokesman addresses change in preliminary cause of BRPD chopper crash

After federal investigators altered their preliminary cause of the BRPD helicopter crash, the WAFB I-TEAM had questions about what changed.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:55 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After federal investigators altered their preliminary cause of the Baton Rouge Police Department helicopter crash, the WAFB I-TEAM had questions about what changed.

On Monday, the preliminary report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the aircraft’s tail rotor struck a tree and crashed, killing two BRPD  officers over the weekend. Now, the agency changed those preliminary findings, listing them as unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also investigating. Peter Knudson, the spokesman for the agency, says he cannot speak directly for the FAA but says it’s not uncommon for things to change as more information becomes available.

”In any given accident, there’s the initial flow of information and we know some of that information is wrong or some of it is less than accurate or less than precise. It’s just that we don’t know which pieces are maybe inaccurate. That is very common in all modes of transportation that the NTSB investigates so it’s really not surprising that one particular piece of information might have been mistaken,” Knudson.

While the community mourns the loss of Sgt. David Poirrier and Cpl. Scotty Canezaro the WAFB I-TEAM is working to figure out exactly what went wrong as the two police pilots were flying back to Baton Rouge Sunday morning after assisting with a pursuit that spilled into West Baton Rouge Parish. Right now NTSB investigators are focused on three key factors that could give them clues as to what happened. They are examining the flight experience of the pilots- including any medical conditions or training they’ve received, the weather and lighting conditions from the time of the crash, and the aircraft itself to determine if there were any failures.

”We start really with everything on the table and all the options and as we rule things out we’re typically left with just a handful of issues that we dig further deeply into to ultimately get to the probable cause of the accident,” said Knudson.

Records show the Robinson R-44 aircraft was built back in 2009. The specific type of helicopter is widely available for commercial use and some have questioned whether the aircraft itself is dangerous.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the NTSB spokesman if that factors into the investigation at all or if they take each case as it comes.

“We take each case as it comes. If we do find any systematic issue involving a particular type of aircraft we can always or I guess I should say the FAA works with us on every type of investigation so they’re learning the information as we are developing it. We’re sharing that information with the FAA and they can take actions as needed,” said Knudson.

The Robinson R-44 helicopter has reportedly been involved in a number of deadly crashes in the past. WAFB asked BRPD if they have more of those specific helicopters in their fleet. A spokesman for the agency said the chopper that went down over the weekend is the only one they have.

The initial report from the NTSB is expected to be complete as early as Friday, March 31. It will not be released to the public until later.

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