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Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has revealed more information about the Dec. 14, 2017, crash of a Hydro One AS350 B2 AStar near Tweed, Ontario.
The accident claimed the lives of all four people on board, including pilot James Baragar, 39, and linemen Kyle Shorrock, 27; Jeff Howes, 26; and Darcy Jansen, 26.
The crew had been performing maintenance on high-power transmission lines and the helicopter was on approach for landing when it reportedly lost control and crashed into a nearby wooded area.
The TSB said in a news conference on Dec. 21 that bags used for carrying tools and supplies were being transported externally on an AirStair platform extending from the right side of the helicopter’s fuselage.
Investigators noted these bags are normally attached to the AirStair with double-lock carabiners.
Shortly before the accident, the pilot picked up the three linemen at the base of a tower and was ferrying them to a nearby staging area. While nearing the staging area, one of the bags dislodged from the platform and, together with its attached carabiner, flew back and struck the tail rotor, which subsequently separated from the aircraft.
The helicopter departed controlled flight and all three passengers were ejected from the aircraft while it was still airborne. Investigators later found that two of the three passenger seatbelts in the aft seating area were unfastened.
Members of the TSB team also located a damaged white canvas bag (with a damaged carabiner attached) as well as the tip of a tail rotor blade more than 600 meters (1,968 feet) away from the crash site.
Investigators also recovered the aircraft’s GPS unit, although it was not equipped with — or required to carry — a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) or flight data recorder (FDR).
The helicopter wreckage was sent to the TSB Engineering Laboratory in Ottawa, where its systems — including flight controls and engines — will be examined.
The investigation will also review helicopter maintenance and pilot training records, as well as operational policies and procedures and regulatory requirements.