NTSB Identification: MIA00GA184.
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Accident occurred Sunday, June 04, 2000 in FORT MYERS, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 10/17/2001
Aircraft: Bell UH-1H, registration: N127FC
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

: NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

During a fire-fighting flight, witnesses observed the helicopter heading back towards the fire with an external bucket of water. The helicopter was seen in level flight heading in a northeasterly direction away from the lake were the bucket was refilled. A witness said the helicopter banked steeply and went into a nose-low attitude until it disappeared behind trees. Shortly after disappearing behind the trees, the witnesses heard the sound of impact. An aircraft mechanic, who saw the pilot before the flight stated, "...[the pilot]...complained that someone...at 1230 AM...woke him up to tell him they wanted him in at 8:00 AM. He mumbled something about sleepwalking. That he couldn't get back to sleep...I cautioned him about the heat and told him not to overwork himself." On Saturday June 3, 2000, the day before the accident the pilot had put in a 14 hour 20 minute workday, and 3 hours of that was flight time after 1800. According to the pilot's medical records he had been under treatment for chronic hepatitis C, and had been taking interferon for his disease. According to the pilot's girlfriend's statement, "...[the pilot] stopped taking all medications prior to August 1998...during the period of August 1998-June 2000, [the pilot] did not see a doctor for any reason, [the pilot] knew his condition was worsening...the [pilot] would have his good days and his bad, but would still push himself to the limit of almost shear exhaustion, and then almost collapse and rest on days off to maintain his physical ability to work for the State......[the pilot] was an alcoholic and would not drink for any reason...[the pilot] was extremely tired the morning of June 4, 2000, when she dropped him off at...[the] airport...[he] had a poor night sleep and was still aggravated from receiving the midnight phone call from the...dispatch." A search of the pilot's last FAA flight physical, dated November 9, 1999, did not indicate any pre-exiting disease. However medical records obtained from the Tallahassee, Florida, Veterans Administration, Out Patient Clinic, revealed the following; "[Patient] on interferon for hep c [hepatitis...advised to continue medication, interferon...results showed some changes...and...to continue interferon as ordered...family member took message that labs ok to continue Rx as ordered." The pilot was transferred to Fort Myers on November 1, 1999, and the VA Out Patient Clinic at Fort Myers had no record of the pilot at their facility. The following medical information it was extracted from the medical records maintained on the pilot by the FAA Civil Aeromedical Institute Aeromedical Certification Division: Applications for 2nd Class Airman Medical Certificates on November 25, 1997, November 9, 1998, and November 9, 1999 each indicate "no" under item 17 ("Do you currently use any medication") and under item 18 ("Have you ever had or have you now any of the following") for sections ("stomach, liver, or intestinal trouble") and x ("other illness, disability, or surgery"). The following information was extracted by the NTSB Medical Officer, from the report of autopsy performed on the pilot by the Office of the District Medical Examiner in Fort Myers, Florida: - Under "Microscopic Examination" is noted, "LIVER: Cirrhosis, portal triads with chronic inflammatory cells, micro and macrovesicular steatosis and focal areas of congestion." The most common symptom of chronic hepatitis C is fatigue. Interferon therapy is often used in individuals with hepatitis C, and had been prescribed by the VA for the pilot. There were, however, no recent medical records to suggest that the pilot had continued that therapy or to indicate how his liver was functioning at or near the time of the accident. The autopsy findings indicate that his disease had progressed to cirrhosis, but the cirrhosis was not noted to be severe. FAA Aviation Medical Examiners are instructed to deny or defer medical certification to the FAA Aeromedical Certification Division for any airmen who have chronic hepatitis with impaired liver function. Examination and test on the Collective Servo Actuator, the Cyclic Servo Actuator, the hydraulic pump, the hydraulic shut-off valve, the engine, and the Bambi (water) Bucket, revealed no discrepancies other then impact damage.

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

the pilot's failure to maintain control of the helicopter for undetermined reasons. Factors in this accident were self-induced pressure and fatigue due to lack of sleep and rest.

Full narrative available

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