(Images from helicopter crash scene and at TSB lab - supplied: Transportation Safety Board)

Supply bag struck helicopter tail rotor: TSB

(Dec 21st, 2017 - Tweed, ON) In a conference regarding the fatal helicopter crash which took the lives of 4 Hydro One employees on December 14th, 2017 in Tweed, Ontario, about 100km northwest of Kingston, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada has revealed that a supply bag struck the helicopter's tail rotor as the helicopter was preparing to land.

The TSB says that the linemen had been conducting maintenance work on high-power transmission lines and, as part of the work being conducted, a few bags used for carrying tools and supplies were carried externally on a platform extending out of the right side of the fuselage. These bags, when carried externally, are normally attached with double-lock carabiners, says the TSB. Shortly before the accident, the pilot had picked up the 3 linemen at the base of a tower and was transporting them to a nearby staging area. It was at this point that one of the bags that was being carried externally blew off the platform and, along with its attached carabiner, struck the tail rotor. The TSB says that shortly thereafter, while the pilot was attempting to land, the helicopter departed from controlled flight and all 3 passengers fell from the helicopter while it was still airborne. The helicopter subsequently crashed nearby.

As part of its investigation, the TSB reviewed the weather in the area at the time and determined that it was suitable for this type of operation and is not considered a factor. The TSB also noted that the helicopter was not equipped with, nor was it required to carry, a Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) or a Flight Data Recorder (FDR). However, a GPS was recovered from the aircraft, which will be reviewed by the TSB to assist their investigation.

The helicopter crashed near Hwy 7 and Flinton Rd in Tweed shortly before noon on Thursday morning. Several fire departments, land ambulances, police, search and rescue helicopters from Trenton as well as ORNGE responded.  

In a statement, Hydro One said "we are deeply saddened to confirm that an incident involving one of our helicopter aircraft occurred in the Tweed area and has resulted in four fatalities. Emergency services are on-site and we have notified all the appropriate oversight organizations. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this difficult time. During this grieving process, we will do everything we can to assist our employees and their families who have been affected in any way, by providing counseling and support. The safety of our employees is paramount and Hydro One together with appropriate safety agencies that have been dispatched will investigate the incident."

The names of the victims have been identified as:

James Baragar, 39-years-old, the helicopter pilot and resident of Orillia, Ontario. He had been with Hydro One since May 2009.

Jeff Howes, 26-years-old, a Power Line Technician, resident of Bath, Ontario and employee with Hydro One since August 2013.

Darcy Jansen, 26-years-old, also a Power Line Technician and resident of Long Sault, Ontario. He had been with Hydro One since August 2013.

Kyle Shorrock, 27-years-old, also a Power Line Technician, resident of Inverary, Ontario, and employee of Hydro One since September 2014.

The Transportation Safety Board remains on scene and continues to investigate. Thus far, they have obtained initial eyewitness statements from the Ontario Provincial Police and are conducting follow-up interviews with selected witnesses. Investigators have taken photographs of the wreckage and accident site, and examination of the aft seatbelts found that 2 of the 3 passengers seatbelts were unfastened. They have also found a heavily damaged white canvas bag, with a damaged carabiner attached, and the tip of a tail rotor blade over 600 meters away from the crash site. The helicopter itself has been sent to the TSB Engineering Laboratory in Ottawa to examine the helicopter systems like flight controls and engines in a controlled environment.