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The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary report on the crash of a Bell UH-1H helicopter near Raton, New Mexico, on Jan. 17.
The crash, which occurred at around 6 p.m. local time, killed five people: pilot Jamie Coleman “J.C.” Dodd, co-pilot Paul Cobb, Charles Ryland Burnett, and Roy and Heather Bennett. There was one survivor, Andra Cobb, who according to news reports was the daughter of Paul Cobb and in a long-term relationship with Burnett.
The flight departed the Raton Municipal Airport around 5:50 p.m. local time on Jan. 17, destined for a personal function in Folsom, New Mexico, approximately 30 nautical miles to the east. According to the NTSB report, the end of local civil twilight was 5:35 p.m., and local moonset was at 5:54 p.m., with the moon in a waxing crescent phase with zero percent of its visible disk illuminated.
Andra Cobb told the NTSB that the helicopter was in level flight, then there was “a big bang as the helicopter hit the ground.” After ground contact, the helicopter rolled forward and came to a stop upside down. The NTSB report described Andra Cobb hanging upside down from her seat belt with jet fuel pouring on her, before she released the belt and evacuated the helicopter. The helicopter was on fire as Cobb called 9-1-1 and waited for emergency responders.
According to the report, the main wreckage of the helicopter came to rest on a flat mesa at the top of rising terrain a little over 10 nautical miles from the Raton airport.
The initial observed point of terrain contact was a parallel pair of ground scars, consistent with the width of skids, which led directly to the main wreckage, the report states.
The full report is available on the NTSB website.