NTSB Identification: LAX99TA115.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, March 09, 1999 in RIALTO, CA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 01/18/2001
Aircraft: McDonnell Douglas 600N, registration: N626SB
Injuries: 3 Minor.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

During a routine law enforcement patrol flight, the pilot responded to the 4,700-foot mean sea level mountainside to investigate circumstances related to an apparent abandoned vehicle. Upon arriving at the site, the pilot performed a toe-in landing to discharge his crewmember. The crewmember proceeded to evaluate the vehicle while the pilot orbited the area. While orbiting, the pilot observed that low elevation clouds were approaching. However, the visibility initially was about 10 miles, and the cloud height appeared between 500 and 600 feet above the ground. After a few minutes, the crewmember returned to the helicopter, and they departed. Seconds after taking off the pilot lost visual reference with the ground. The pilot further indicated that he continued flying by reference to his flight instruments and the helicopter began spinning. Between 1 and 1.5 minutes later the spinning stopped, and the helicopter lost altitude until impacting the mountainside.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

The pilot's improper in-flight decision to maneuver in the area while observed inclement weather approached, which led to a loss of control. Contributing factors were the low ceilings, mountainous terrain and spatial disorientation.

Full narrative available

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