NTSB Identification: SEA96TA213.
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Accident occurred Friday, September 13, 1996 in ST REGIS, MT
Probable Cause Approval Date: 08/21/1997
Aircraft: Bell 206B-3, registration: N47MA
Injuries: 1 Uninjured.

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.

The helicopter sustained substantial damage when it struck wires during a fire suppression activity for the U.S. Forest Service. The pilot reported that his water bucket malfunctioned on his seventh load, while performing fire suppression, and he was unable to drop its water. On his way back to the helibase, he diverted from a direct return. He reported that he descended and circled with the intention of putting his bucket down on an abandoned railroad grade to tip it over and empty it. An eyewitness advised that the pilot appeared to be descending and circling to fill his bucket in a pond just across the railroad grade. About 80 feet above the pond, the helicopter struck a powerline with the main rotor blades, severing three conductors of a main distribution line. About 80 feet further west along the powerline, the main rotor blades severed the messenger wire in two places, about 12 feet apart. The helicopter remained controllable and the pilot continued a right turn, descending to a landing on the railroad grade.

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

failure of the pilot to maintain clearance from electrical transmission lines. The proximity of transmission lines was a related factor.

Full narrative available

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