Severe turbulence caused B.C. helicopter crash that seriously injured 2, investigation finds

·2 min read
This helicopter crashed on Bowen Island, B.C., on the morning of March 5, 2021. (Irene Paulus - image credit)
This helicopter crashed on Bowen Island, B.C., on the morning of March 5, 2021. (Irene Paulus - image credit)

A helicopter crash on Bowen Island, B.C., that sent two people to hospital with serious injuries last year was the result of bad weather that created severe turbulence, the Transportation Safety Board has found.

Airspan Helicopters Ltd.'s Bell 212 chopper went down during an emergency landing on the Gulf Island on March 5, 2021, during a flight from Sechelt to Cypress Provincial Park. Both occupants survived but had to be airlifted to hospital.

A witness at the time told the Canadian Press he watched the helicopter flip upside down before it crashed near the Mount Gardner dock, on the north side of the island, after the pilot attempted to land in a field.

On Thursday, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) released the results of its investigation into what happened, revealing that environmental conditions and some limitations of the aircraft systems contributed to the crash.

"The pilots were aware of the forecasted weather, low-level wind shear, and mechanical turbulence but decided to continue with the day's planned flights based on improving weather forecast later in the day, the desire to complete the operational flight, and the observation that other aircraft were operating around the Sechelt Aerodrome," the TSB said in a written statement.

At some point during the flight, the crew encountered wind shear and abruptly lost control of the helicopter, according to the TSB report. When they regained control, the number 2 engine shut down unexpectedly, likely because of a malfunctioning hydraulic system, and the flight controls became very difficult to manipulate.

WATCH: A Bowen Island resident witnessed the moment the helicopter crashed

The crew decided to attempt an emergency landing on Bowen, but the aircraft ran into severe turbulence during the descent. The main rotor blades began flapping wildly, severing the tail rotor driveshaft.

The helicopter then began an unstoppable rapid rotation to the right and eventually crashed into the forest on a rocky ridge.

According to the TSB statement, Airspan has since taken "several actions" to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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