FTW94LA021
FTW94LA021

On October 29, 1993, approximately 1015 central daylight time, a Bell 206B, N360S, was destroyed when it collided with the water and sank in the West Cameron 240 (W.C. 240) block of the Gulf of Mexico. The aircraft, owned by Offshore Logistics, Inc., leased to SeaHawk Services, Ltd., and flown by an ATP rated pilot, was on a business flight to an offshore oil production platform. Company flight following was being used and the weather had deteriorated to instrument meteorological conditions prior to the accident. The pilot was not recovered and was presumed to have died, while the two passengers were rescued with minor injuries.

According to the operator, the aircraft flew during the morning in the West Cameron area and then landed at Grand Chenier, Louisiana, about 0920, to refuel and pick up a second passenger. It then took off for a flight to a platform in the West Cameron 253 block. The passengers stated that en route, the weather deteriorated into thundershowers, heavy rain, and reduced visibility. The thunderstorms were forecast and the pilot had received a briefing. The pilot elected to divert to a rig in the West Cameron (W.C.) 192 block. After a 16 minute delay, the pilot decided to continue the flight to W.C. 253. The passengers stated that the weather again deteriorated en route and the pilot told them that he was going to divert to W.C. 240. They stated that when the aircraft got to within three miles of the platform, the weather again deteriorated. They stated the pilot made several attempts to reach the platform; however, each time, the aircraft entered what they described as squall lines and the pilot would turn around to get into the clear. Ultimately, the pilot began orbiting in a clear area and contacted the company and requested a ten minute extension on his flight plan. That was the last contact with the flight.

The passengers stated that the aircraft completed four or five 360 degree turns, during which the pilot leveled and slowed the aircraft. Both passengers indicated that the airspeed slowed to zero or near zero and the aircraft began descending. The passenger in the left front seat stated that he was concerned about their low altitude and was about to warn the pilot when a "ten to fifteen" foot sea swell struck the bottom of the aircraft. The passengers said that the aircraft immediately rolled right and impacted the water. All three occupants were able to extricate themselves, swim to the surface, and inflate their life vests. The passengers stated they all signaled to each other that they were not seriously injured, they then joined up and stayed together.

When the pilot failed to report landing on the West Cameron 253 platform and did not make his required 15 minute radio check, the dispatcher at Air Logistics, with whom SeaHawk Services had contracted for flight following services, initiated a radio and telephone search at 1030. Unable to locate the aircraft, the dispatcher notified the operator and initiated an air search using Air Logistics aircraft at 1045. Two aircraft diverted to West Cameron 253 were unable to enter the area due to weather. Ultimately, an aircraft was able to land at West Cameron 253 and reported that the missing aircraft was not there or on any of the adjoining platforms. The U. S. Coast Guard was notified of the missing aircraft at 1240 and immediately initiated an air and sea search mission. Additionally, work boats operating in the area were notified and they diverted to the search area. The air search was hampered by deteriorating weather throughout the day.

According to the passengers, the aircraft continued to float for about five to six hours, during which time one of them attempted unsuccessfully three times to retrieve the life raft from inside the aircraft. The passenger did retrieve another life vest which he gave to the pilot for additional support. The passengers stated that it was during this time that the pilot stated "I'm sorry fella's, we had a chance to land and we didn't." He also said that he thought everything was "all over for him anyway." The passengers told him that they were all "OK" and that they needed to concentrate on survival.

After the aircraft sank, one of the passengers decided to attempt to swim to the West Cameron 240 platform which he estimated as being about two miles away. Shortly thereafter, the second passenger began swimming toward the platform, however; the pilot elected to float and await rescue. The first passenger reached the unmanned platform about three hours after setting out and was able to phone his office. The passenger on the platform was rescued by a Coast Guard cutter at 1926 and the second passenger was recovered by a work boat about 1935. The same work boat spotted the unconscious pilot face down in the water about 0128, the following morning. During the attempted recovery, the pilot's life vest came off and he sank below the surface.

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