On December 21, 2001, at 1725 eastern standard time, a Bell 206, N206HE, registered to Heli-East, Inc., collided with water while maneuvering for a water-dip from a private pond near Awendaw, South Carolina. The public use flight was operated by the U.S. Forest Service, and there was not a flight plan filed for this flight. Visual weather conditions prevailed at the time of the flight. The commercial pilot was not injured and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The external load helicopter flight departed Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, at 1330, on December 21, 2001. Use your browsers 'back' function to return to synopsisReturn to Query Page
Earlier in the day the pilot had completed 7 water-dips from the accident pond with the bambi bucket configuration as part of the U.S Forest Service firefighting efforts in the area. The pilot reported that he had completed about 40 water-dips from other ponds in support of other firefighting operations earlier in the day. According to the pilot, he was attempting another water-dip, from the accident pond, when the helicopter's nose moved right in a nose low attitude. The pilot immediately started feeling a vibration in the airframe as he started lifting the bucket from the water. When the pilot attempted the climb out from the pond, with the 600-pound external load, the helicopter rolled right, collided with the water and sank in about 10 feet of water.
The examination of the helicopter revealed that one of the stainless steel cable risers was crimped about four feet up from the 96-gallon bucket. Two of the rods that hold the bucket open were cracked. The pilot said he had operated the bambi bucket system for 15 years, and the crimples observed in the accident cables, he had seen similar crimples in other bambi bucket systems. The airframe examination revealed that the right skid was broken at doublers forward the landing gear cross-tub. The examination also showed that the bambi busket assembly and cables were long enough to extend over the right skid toe of the skid assembly.
The pilot did not report a mechanical problem with the helicopter during the attempted takeoff. The pilot reported that he believed the bucket cable did not cross over the right skid toe since there were no marks to show cable contact. The pilot also said he always watch the bucket in the mirror during the dip operation. According to the pilot, divers who assisted in the recovery operation stated that firmly anchored roots and sticks were encountered in the pond. The pilot also stated that he thought that when the accident sequence started, the bucket snagged something in the pond.
During an interview with the pilot he stated that the bambi bucket configuration on the Bell 206 helicopter extends about 15 feet from the bottom of the helicopter. The pilot also reported that the helicopter was equipped with an external cargo release system, had been tested on the day of the accident, and that the system was operational. According to the Bell 206 flight manual, the external cargo release switch is located on the cyclic control. The pilot did not report attempting to release the external load before colliding with the water.