WOODRUFF (WAOW) - The medical helicopter that crashed in some woods killing the pilot and two medical crew members showed no signs of any fire, according to the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report.
However, the engine's compressor blades "exhibited nick and gouge damage consistent with foreign object ingestion," the report said without any elaboration.
The Ascension Spirit helicopter was traveling back to Woodruff after hauling a patient to Madison and had received 80 gallons of fuel before taking off, the report said. The crashed aircraft was found at 2:15 a.m. April 27 in some woods after authorities tracked its emergency transmitter signal - about 12 miles from its landing site.
Killed were the 34-year-old pilot, Rico Caruso, 34, of Hazelhurst, Gregory Rosenthal, 43, of Mosinee and Klint Mitchell, 30, of Watersmeet, Mich.
"First responders indicated that the sky was clear, the moon was visible and there was a smell of fuel at the time the helicopter was located," the online NTSB report said.
Caruso had 3,200 hours of flight time and had “passed a check ride" following some training in early January, the report said.
The 2006 Eurocopter helicopter, owned by Air Methods Corp., had undergone 100- and 600-hour inspections just two days before the crash and had accumulated 5,153 hours of flight time, NTSB reported.
A tree about 70 feet tall and 47 feet from the nose of the wreckage had branches broken in its upper canopy, the report said. "Trees in between this tree and the wreckage had their trunks and branches broken and linearly separated. The path of the broken and separated trunks and branches through the trees was steep."
The crash created a 2-foot deep crater, the report said.
The preliminary report offered no cause for the crash.