NTSB Identification: WPR12GA106
14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Wednesday, February 15, 2012 in Moran Junction, WY
Aircraft: BELL 407, registration: N407HL
Injuries: 1 Fatal,2 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. : 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.

On February 15, 2012, about 1300 mountain standard time, a Bell Helicopter model 407, N407HL, was substantially damaged when it impacted trees and terrain in the Bridger Teton National Forest near Moran Junction, Wyoming, during a search and rescue (SAR) mission. The commercial pilot and one SAR crewmember received serious injuries, and the other SAR crewmember was fatally injured. The public-use flight was operated by the Teton County Sheriff's Office (TCSO). Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no FAA flight plan was filed for the flight.

The mission was in response to a reported snowmobile injury accident, in order to transport medical personnel to that scene. Initial attempts to locate that victim, based on trail network and geographic coordinate information, were unsuccessful. The helicopter began a grid search, and the crew observed two snowmobilers signaling to them in a meadow. The helicopter landed in the meadow, and a SAR member exited and spoke with the snowmobilers. They were from the victim's party, and they agreed to lead the helicopter on their snowmobiles to the accident site. The SAR member reboarded the helicopter, the helicopter lifted off to follow the snowmobilers, flying about 100 to 200 feet above the trees. Since the helicopter was faster than the snowmobiles, the pilot stopped two or three times in a hover to allow the snowmobiles to catch up. On either the second or third hover, the pilot experienced a slight left yaw, which he believed he corrected. The helicopter then started "spinning rapidly" and descended into the trees. Witness accounts of the spin direction have not yet been reconciled.

The SAR member in the rear seat remained conscious throughout the event, and extricated himself, despite an injured leg. He assisted the other SAR member and the pilot out of the helicopter after they became verbally responsive. The second SAR member subsequently succumbed to his injuries. The pilot carried a radio to the top of a nearby ridge and requested assistance. A ground team of TCSO and other personnel reached the helicopter about 75 minutes later. The accident site was heavily wooded, and the elevation was about 9,350 feet above mean sea level.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) information indicated that the pilot held multiple certificates and ratings, including a commercial pilot certificate with a rotorcraft-helicopter rating. The pilot reported a total flight experience of about 22,250 hours, including about 4,500 hours in the accident helicopter make and model. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued in May 2011. He was the chief pilot for Hillsboro Aviation, Hillsboro, Oregon.

According to FAA information, the helicopter was manufactured in 2008, and was equipped with a Rolls Royce 250-C47 series turboshaft engine. The helicopter was registered to Hillsboro Aviation, leased to TCSO, and operated by Hillsboro flight personnel.

The 1251 automated weather observation for Jackson Hole Airport (JAC), Jackson, Wyoming, located about 25 miles southwest of the accident site, included winds from 090 degrees at 4 knots; visibility 10 miles; few clouds at 4,500 feet; temperature -6 degrees C; dew point -9 degrees C; and an altimeter setting of 29.96 inches of mercury.

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