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On August 7, 1999, approximately 2130 Pacific daylight time, a Schweizer 269C helicopter, N383T, was destroyed after it collided with trees and terrain about six miles west of Westport, Oregon. The private pilot, who was the sole occupant and owner of the helicopter, was fatally injured. The flight had departed Oysterville, Washington, about 2030, with its destination reported to be Kelso, Washington. No flight plan was filed for the flight which was to be conducted under 14 CFR 91. Visual meteorological conditions were reported en route, however, persons in the area around Svensen and Knappa, Oregon, (near the crash site) reported isolated severe thunderstorms in the vicinity. No ELT was carried on board the aircraft.
About 2115, the helicopter was seen about 150 feet AGL proceeding to the east, near the maritime museum in Astoria, Oregon, by an individual who knew both the pilot and the specific helicopter. That person also stated that the helicopter's navigation lights and strobe were on at the time, and that he expected the pilot to land at the museum heliport due to impending darkness. He also noted that he had flown with the pilot many times, and that the pilot often flew between Astoria and Kelso using a direct magnetic heading of 080 degrees, flying over the ridge at Bradley State Park, and over the town of Westport, Oregon.
A retired Coast Guard Captain and pilot with the Astoria Search and Rescue Team, offered his observations of the weather on the night of August 7, 1999. He said that from his home in Knappa, Oregon (approximately ten miles west of the accident site), he noticed a ragged low ceiling, with approximately 200 to 500 feet visibility at the time it was becoming dark. He said that he didn't pay attention to the weather after dark, except to note that there were rain showers. He mentioned that he had flown the route between Astoria and Kelso many times, and that the Bradley ridge (At Bradley State Park) is the first high terrain coming east from Astoria.
The helicopter impacted in a wooded area just west of Bradley State Park, topping two hemlock trees about 100 feet off the ground, impacting a third tree, before final ground impact. The wreckage was near a direct course (approximately 080 degrees) between Astoria and Kelso airport.
The aircraft was reported missing August 8, 1999. A search was discontinued August 16. The wreckage was found by hunters September 18, 1999.
The pilot had successfully completed a private pilot rotorcraft (helicopter) checkride on May 7, 1999. At that time, his log book reflected 55.1 hours of helicopter flight instruction.
FAA registration reflected ownership of the helicopter as Precision Helicopters of Newberg, Oregon. A copy of an FAA aircraft Bill of Sale, listing the purchaser as Ted Natt, was provided by Precision Helicopter Services, Inc., dated June 9, 1999, and signed by the president of Precision Helicopter Services. An FAA Form 337, dated July 16, 1999, reported the owner of the helicopter as being Precision Helicopters, Inc. The FAA airworthiness certificate and registration certificate were not found at the accident scene. The aircraft, which was manufactured in 1994, had a total flight time of approximately 40 hours at the time of the accident. The recording hour meter was not found during the course of the investigation.
Weather information includes the following reports, and calls by persons in the vicinity of the crash site at about the same time as the presumed crash time. A summary of that information is attached to this report.
Astoria 2056 weather: Wind 180 degrees at 5 mph, 10 statute miles visibility, few clouds at 8000 feet, 10,000 feet overcast, temperature 16 degrees C, dew point 14 degrees, altimeter 30.01.
Kelso 2055 weather: Wind 070 degrees at 3 mph, 10 statute miles visibility, few clouds at 2100 feet, few clouds at 2700 feet, 8000 broken, temperature 18 degrees C, dew point 13 degrees, altimeter 30.00.
Persons reporting included one person who was driving along highway 30 when he saw the helicopter at abut 150 feet, with navigation lights on, and the landing light came on briefly and then off. He said that he was in a heavy rain squall between Knapp and Svensen (approximately 2 miles east of Svensen). This person called a second time and called the rain squall a driving rain storm.
Another person living in Knappa stated that he saw a small helicopter just above the tree tops, appearing to be following highway 30, around 2100-2130 local time. He reported that there was low fog, and the helicopter was under it.
WRECKAGE AND IMPACT INFORMATION
On-scene inspection and documentation of the accident scene was performed by an FAA inspector. The wreckage distribution was from west to east on an approximate heading of 080 degrees, for approximately 110 feet GPS coordinates of the accident scene were reported to be N 46 degrees 09 minutes 45 seconds, and W 123 degrees 28 minutes 21 seconds.
The accident scene was in dense mature forest
MEDICAL AND PATHOLOGICAL INFORMATION
An autopsy was performed by Dr. Larry V. Newman, at 301 N. E. Knott, Portland, Oregon, on September 21, 1999. Partial toxicological testing was performed for volatiles, however carbon monoxide and cyanide tests were not performed.
The wreckage was moved to Specialty Aircraft, in Redmond, Oregon. It was released to the insurance adjuster on November 15, 1999.