British Columbia

Rotor blade failure during emergency landing caused deadly B.C. helicopter crash, TSB says

A deadly helicopter crash that killed one pilot and damaged a building in Campbell River, B.C., was caused by a rotor blade failure during an emergency landing, according to the Transportation Safety Board.

Helicopter crashed within minutes of take-off, investigation finds

A Bell 206 helicopter is pictured after a crash into a building in Campbell River, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2019. The helicopter's pilot and only occupant was killed. (Supplied by the Transportation Safety Board)

A deadly helicopter crash that killed one pilot and damaged a building in Campbell River, B.C., was caused by a rotor blade failure during an emergency landing, according to the Transportation Safety Board.

A report released Thursday said the main rotors on the Bell 206B helicopter "became deformed" some time during the flight on Sept. 24, 2019, sending the aircraft into a building on Spit Road along the Tyee Spit.

"In the last moments of the flight, likely as a result of the deformed blades, the main rotor [rotations per minute] decreased to a point that could not sustain autorotational flight, and the helicopter fell vertically and impacted the ground," the report read.

"The pilot was fatally injured. The helicopter was destroyed by the impact forces and a post-impact fire."

The pilot was identified after the crash as Ed Wilcock, a prominent figure in the local aviation community who owned the E & B Helicopter company. He was the only person on board.

Helicopter crashed within minutes of takeoff

There are several seaplane and helicopter hangars along the spit where the aircraft crashed, with a wharf and an RV park nearby. The falling helicopter hit two vehicles and a carving shed on its way down, sending a rotor blade through the building's roof.

The investigation said Wilcock was flying from Campbell River to resupply a cabin on Moat Lake, just under 55 kilometres to the southwest. He left the city's heliport at 11 a.m.

Within four minutes, the report said "an engine power anomaly" happened. Wilcock reversed course and started to descend, but the deformed rotors slowed down too much to keep the helicopter in the air.

Wilcock crashed from a height of 60 metres — about the height of a 20-storey building.

Ed Wilcock, a helicopter pilot who died in a crash on Sept. 24, 2019, is pictured receiving a lifetime safety award from B.C. Forest Safety in 2017. (B.C. Forest Safety)

In addition to the findings about the main rotor blades, the report also found the engine fuel system didn't have the right accumulators or double-check valve for a Bell 206 helicopter, which helps stabilize the fuel system against vibrations to avoid sudden changes in power.

Still, investigators said they couldn't find out what might have stopped the engine from producing power.

"It could not be determined why, by the time of impact, the engine had flamed out," the report said.

The helicopter flight path and vertical profile during the flight over Campbell River, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2019, are shown in a graphic released by the Transportation Safety Board. (Supplied by the Transportation Safety Board)

Investigators also noted Wilcock had "many of the key indicators for a high-risk cardiac event," including "extensive" coronary artery disease. The report said Transport Canada's medical exam did not include Wilcock's risk, despite recent lab test results from his family doctor and other evidence.

Transport Canada's medical exams are meant to determine whether an applicant should be granted a medical certificate, which is required for a valid pilot's licence.

The B.C. Coroners Service found no evidence a cardiac event contributed to Wilcock's death during the crash.

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