NTSB Identification: LAX07LA270.
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Accident occurred Saturday, September 08, 2007 in Ellensburg, WA
Probable Cause Approval Date: 03/31/2008
Aircraft: Hughes 369D, registration: N31HM
Injuries: 1 Fatal,2 Uninjured.

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

Prior to the accident, the pilot and the second passenger (a biologist) had flown on numerous missions over the course of more than 20 years. The day of the accident, the flight departed early in the morning for the purpose of relocating bighorn sheep. During the flight, the front left-seated pilot was maneuvering the helicopter, allowing both the gunner (aft left seat) and mugger (aft right seat) to capture the sheep. After capturing 16 sheep, the mission continued toward the achievement of the 20 sheep goal for that day. The crew gunned two sheep in one net, and the pilot maneuvered the helicopter onto the hillside (about a 30-percent grade). He continued toe-ing the helicopter into the hillside with the front skids in contact with terrain and the netted sheep off the right side of the helicopter. The gunner egressed the left side and walked into the rotating main rotor disc, killing himself. The pilot opined that the gunner may have been feeling added pressure and fatigue on the capture. A review of the operator's employee manual disclosed that the operations on the accident flight were in compliance with the manual. However, the manual did not address passenger briefing of egress instructions on a regular basis.

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

The passenger's inadequate visual lookout and failure to maintain clearance from the rotating main rotor disc while the helicopter was hovering. An uphill terrain condition was a factor

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