The Bell 407 helicopter involved in the weekend crash that killed two Virginia State Police officers in Charlottesville crashed in 2010, officials at the National Transportation Safety Board confirmed Tuesday.
That crash occurred in May 2010, when the helicopter lost power during a training flight. Two troopers were on board, but did not suffer serious injuries. The NTSB said that the probable cause of the crash was faulty maintenance, noting that the shop that had made repairs to the helicopter, which involved the replacement of a deflector plate, was not authorized to do such work.
NTSB officials, who released new details of the Charlottesville crash Monday, said they did not disclose the previous incident because it was not clear if there was any connection between the 2010 incident and the weekend crash. Even so, officials said that it will be considered as part of the broader investigation.
News of the 2010 crash was first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Officials said Saturday’s crash that killed Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, happened less than an hour after the helicopter had left the Charlottesville airport to conduct surveillance of the white nationalists’ rally. The helicopter had finished flying over downtown at around 4:42 p.m. and was en route to provide air support for the motorcade of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) when it crashed. The first 911 call came in around 4:44 p.m. There was no distress call from the crew aboard the helicopter, investigators said.
According to the report, the helicopter’s vertical flight path was about 45 degrees when it descended into trees. Investigators said there was a small fire following the crash and that the main wreckage was about 100 yards from where the aft portion of the tail boom became lodged in a tree.
A preliminary report on the incident will be completed in two to three weeks, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.
In the 2010 crash, the officers said they heard an “unusual noise” from the engine compartment about seven minutes into the flight. The crew then heard a louder noise and the helicopter’s engine “surged twice” before it lost power and crashed. Investigators could not determine why the helicopter was sent to a facility that was not authorized to do the necessary work. The facility had also done repairs on 19 other “assemblies,” which were re-examined. No other incidents occurred, NTSB investigators said.
The helicopter was manufactured in 2000.