NTSB: 4 killed when helicopter crashed on Md. highway were returning from charity eventBy David Dishneau, AP
Friday, July 24, 2009
4 in Md. chopper crash had been at charity event
HAGERSTOWN, Md. — One of four people killed when a helicopter crashed on a Maryland highway told his son he was delaying his flight home because of foul weather.
The four — three flight company employees and a friend who had accompanied them — were returning from an event that offered helicopter rides to raise money for troubled youth when the helicopter crashed on Interstate 70 and burst into flames around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. No one on the ground was hurt.
One victim, Niall R. Y. Booth, 43, told his son beforehand that he was waiting to fly back to Frederick because of foul weather. Visibility was somewhat hampered by fog, but authorities could not say if weather contributed to the crash. Storms had passed through the area earlier.
“He said they were going to wait and wouldn’t leave unless the storm was over. That was the last thing I heard,” Haydn Booth said. “I said it was a good idea and said goodbye.”
Investigators do not yet know the cause of the crash, said Kitty Higgins, a National Transportation Safety Board member.
Witnesses reported seeing the craft flying low when it hit power lines over the interstate, then saw sparks fly before it went down. There was no flight plan and no contact with air traffic controllers because the tower was closed. The helicopter was making the 25-mile flight from Hagerstown to Frederick.
Maryland State Police tentatively identified those on board as Booth; Jeffrey D. Nordaas, 24, of Columbia, Md.; George H. Tutor Jr., 39, of Westminster, Md.; and Kim R. Felix, 48, of New Market, Md.
Nordaas was the pilot, according to Federal Aviation Administration registry records that matched certification information the NTSB provided at a news conference.
Nordaas, Booth and Tutor worked for Frederick, Md.-based Advanced Helicopter Concepts. Felix, the lone female passenger, was a friend who had flown with them to Hagerstown for a meeting of the Advanced Helicopter Youth Foundation.
The pilot, who had about 630 hours of flight experience, waited two hours after Thursday’s event to return to Frederick because of the weather, Higgins said.
Gary Smith, an instructor for Advanced Helicopter Concepts, said Friday morning that the company had suffered a “huge loss.”
The company, based at Frederick Municipal Airport, trains pilots, takes photographers on aerial tours and fixes and sells helicopters, according to its Web site.
Booth, who was married with two children and also lived in New Market, joined the firm a few months ago, Haydn Booth said. He said his father was the planning director for a foundation venture called Heli Flights for Hope, which was raising money for at-risk youth.
“He was definitely a very charitable man,” Haydn said. “He loved giving back to people.”
Booth was a native of Dorking, England, and had moved to Colorado in the 1990s before settling in Maryland, friends and relatives said.
Higgins said at her news conference that “it’s very unfortunate when you have people who were obviously trying to help others in the community and have this kind of outcome.”
Nordaas, was a hardworking, responsible pilot who started flying while attending St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where he also played hockey, said his half brother, Bob Hart.
“I have a son and I hope he will grow up to be like him,” Hart said.
Tutor was a single father of a 14-year-old girl, said his mother, Nancy Tutor.
“He was a good son and a good father,” she said. “He loved flying. He wanted to fly from the time he was 7 years old and he had finally gotten his wish to do that.”
Nobody answered the door at Felix’s house.
The helicopter fell into a power cable that is essentially a lightning rod for the power poles, said Allegheny Power spokesman Todd Meyers. Two other live wires were damaged in the crash, knocking out power to about 700 customers for about two hours.
Federal Aviation Administration records list the owner of the four-seat Robinson R44 helicopter as Marsan Aviation Inc., of Wilmington, Del. Telephone messages weren’t immediately returned by an attorney for Marsan listed in FAA records.
Frederick Municipal Airport Manager Kevin Daugherty said he was shocked by news of the crash, which happened west of the Washington County-Frederick County line, on the western slope of a ridge known as South Mountain.
He said Advanced Helicopter Concepts had been at the airport for well over 10 years and was a “top-notch operation.”
“They run a very safe, efficient operation. They’re great tenants,” Daugherty said. “We are obviously very distraught over this. We are all still in shock that this happened.” He said he had spoken to employees of the company and that “they’re grieving very much.”
Associated Press writers Ben Nuckols in Frederick, Md., and Ben Greene and Kasey Jones in Baltimore contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Advanced Helicopter Youth Foundation: www.ahyouthfoundation.org
Tags: Accidents, Advanced helicopter concepts, Hagerstown, Marsan aviation, Maryland, Middle East, North America, Personnel, Robinson r44, Traffic, Transportation, United States