NTSB Identification: CHI01LA327.
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Accident occurred Thursday, September 27, 2001 in Park Rapids, MN
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/30/2004
Aircraft: Bell 206B-III, registration: N56MC
Injuries: 4 Minor.

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

The helicopter sustained substantial damage on impact with water while maneuvering over a glassy lake. The pilot stated, "Potato Lake selected for low altitude water/shoreline footage. Did high recon, no observed boat traffic in conflict with flight path over water at approx 40 to 50 ft. Commenced with descent profile of 80 mph and 600 [feet per minute]. The descent was to continue until treetop level then terminate descent and cruise over water for length of lake. Flight path was south to north with planned airspeed of 60 - 80 mph, then climb out. Reached target altitude confirmed with left and right shoreline sight picture, raised collective pitch with [simultaneous] forward cyclic pressure to commence over water cruise. Engine appeared non-responsive to power demand. Descent was not arrested. Added additional collective, no response to power demand. Leveled aircraft and impacted water with forward velocity." The front left seat passenger stated, "The pilot did not give us any pre-flight safety briefing or instructions. The pilot did not demonstrate or explain how to use the seat belts or how to egress from the helicopter in case of an emergency. ... Shortly after takeoff, I noticed were flying very low over the lake. Suddenly the helicopter abruptly dove down nose first crashing into the lake. The helicopter quickly began to sink into the water. ... I could not unbuckle the safety harness strap. My clothing was getting very heavy and I began to swallow water uncontrollably. I thought I was going to die. I continued to unsuccessfully struggle with the safety harness. Finally, somehow, I was able to wiggle out of the buckled safety harness." Wind was calm, sky condition clear, and the temperature was 20 degrees C. An on-scene investigation of the recovered wreckage revealed no pre-impact anomalies. A study of an on-board video revealed sounds consistent with the gas producer section of the engine and the main rotor system. Both rear passengers were not wearing their seat belts.

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

The pilot not maintaining altitude/clearance when he maneuvered above the glassy lake. A factor to the accident was the glassy lake condition.

Full narrative available

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