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California Briefing / LOS ANGELES

Crashed copter had power failure

August 22, 2008|Steve Chawkins

The Aug. 5 helicopter crash that killed nine during a Northern California forest fire was caused when power was lost to the main rotor on takeoff, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.

However, what caused that failure may not be known until the board completes its investigation and issues its final conclusions, said spokeswoman Bridget Serchak.

Seven firefighters and two pilots died when the Sikorsky S-61N struck a tree, plummeted and burst into flames deep in Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Witnesses at the remote firefighting base said the helicopter rose slower than usual and reached a height of only 45 or 50 feet before hitting the ground.

Its owner, Carson Helicopters of Grants Pass, Ore., said in a written statement that the NTSB "finding reinforces Carson's belief that the accident was not the result of pilot error, visibility or loading issues."

Paul Jackson, a spokesman for Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Conn., declined comment.

-- Steve Chawkins

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