American billionaire Chris Cline’s helicopter was in the air for a minute before it spun, dropped 50 feet and crashed into the ocean, according to a preliminary report released yesterday by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The report, which came nearly three weeks after the crash, did not provide a cause for the incident.
However, it did note that the aircraft did not catch on fire or explode following the incident.
The report said the helicopter was found upside down with its tail boom separated from the fuselage and in several pieces.
According to the NTSB, all five main rotor blades and all four tail blades came off of the helicopter.
Between 1:30 a.m. and 1:45 a.m. on July 4, Cline and four other passengers, including his 22-year-old daughter, boarded the aircraft which had two crew members on board.
The helicopter was en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to transport “two of the passengers…for medical treatment”, according to the report.
“The flight departed from a concrete pad at Big Grand Cay, which was located about five nautical miles southeast from [Walker’s Cay Airport], about one minute prior to the accident,” the report noted.
It added, “Another witness, who was located about 1.6 nm southwest of the accident site reported seeing the helicopter lift off and climb to between 40 and 50 ft above ground level; then shortly thereafter, he noted blue and white lights spinning to the left at a rate of about one to two seconds between rotations while descending.
“He estimated that the helicopter rotated to the left three to four times. He then heard a ‘whoosh whoosh whoosh’ sound, and lost sight of the helicopter, which was followed by the sound of an impact.”
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert notice for the overdue flight nearly 14 hours after the helicopter took off.
The report notes that the aircraft was subsequently located by Bahamians about an hour after the alert was issued.
It was found in “about 16 feet of water about 1.2 nm north-northeast of the departure point”, according to the report.
The NTSB noted that further examinations of the recovered wreckage are ongoing.
A final report, which will include a probable cause, is expected to be completed within two years.