WJHL.com - UPDATE: NTSB finishes preliminary report into Food City helicopt

UPDATE: NTSB finishes preliminary report into Food City helicopter crash

By Staff

UPDATE:  September 7, 2012, 10:58 am

The National Transportation Safety Board has completed its preliminary report into the helicopter crash that killed Food City's chief pilot.

The crash occurred two weeks ago today on South Holston Lake in Washington County, Virginia.

Pilot Bill Starnes died in the crash. Starnes had just dropped off passengers at a private home from Bristol Motor Speedway, when he took off again and crashed a short time later.

According to the NTSB's preliminary report into the "accident," there were clear weather conditions on the night of the crash.

"According to a witness in a boat, he watched the helicopter land with the landing light on and the passengers exit the helicopter," the report said. "The helicopter then departed without the landing light on and turned toward the lake, descended down an embankment, and made a turn over the lake. The helicopter traveled approximately 150 yards when the bottom skids collided with the lake. The helicopter nosed over and made a loud splash. The witness waited for a short moment and then turned on his spot light and moved towards the position of the helicopter. As he moved forward, his boat collided with the tail boom which was floating away from the fuselage. He continued forward and the cabin area was floating upside down."

While the NTSB was at the crash scene last month investigators recovered a unit onboard the helicopter that recorded some information. That unit is now at the NTSB lab in Washington, DC.

NTSB Spokesperson Eric Weiss says the final report could take 12 to 18 months to complete.

"Why does it take so long?," Weiss asked. "Because although these accidents only take a few seconds to happen, it takes months and months and months to piece back each piece and figure out exactly, not only what happened, but why it happened. The why matters because NTSB's job is to find out how to prevent accidents like this in the future."


The process to remove a crashed helicopter from South Holston Lake is underway.

Today crews began dragging the helicopter closer to shore.

The chopper crashed Friday night. The Food City owned Bell aircraft was ferrying  people to and from races at Bristol Motor Speedway.

It's still unknown why the helicopter crashed.  The FAA and NTSB will conduct a full investigation.

The crash killed the pilot, 64 year old year-old Bill Starnes of Blountville.

He was the only one on board at the time of the crash.

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