Officials concluded that equipment failure caused deadly Navy helicopter crash
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A mechanical failure, not pilot error, caused a Navy helicopter crash that killed five crew members last summer off the coast of San Diego, military officials have concluded.
A seven-month probe determined that the in-flight failure of a damper hose, an apparatus that reduces vibrations from a helicopter’s main rotor, led to the deadly Aug. 31 accident, the Navy reported.
“The investigation found that there is no evidence that pilot or air- crew error was a causal factor in the crash,” according to a Navy statement released this week.
The equipment problem caused the MH-60S Knighthawk to undergo severe “side-to-side vibrations” while its crew was trying to land on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln during routine flight operations, military officials reported.
As the aircraft lurched back and forth, its main rotor struck the deck of the ship, and the impact caused the helicopter to tumble into the sea, tail first.
One member of the six-person crew managed to escape the aircraft before it sank and was pulled from the ocean. The rescued sailor and two others who were injured aboard the carrier were taken ashore for medical care in stable condition. Another three personnel on the ship suffered minor injuries and remained aboard, officials said.
After more than 72 hours of searching in vain for the missing personnel, the Navy declared them lost at sea. A military search-and-salvage team recovered the helicopter and the remains of the sailors from a depth of about 5,300 feet on Oct. 8.
Killed in the crash were Lt. Bradley A. Foster, 29, a pilot from Oakhurst; Lt. Paul R. Fridley, 28, a pilot from Annandale, Virginia; Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31, from Salem, Virginia; hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns, 31, from Severna Park, Maryland; and hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey J. Tucker, 21, from St. Louis.
Military officials have “taken steps to prevent (helicopter damper) hose damage due to kinking from occurring in the future,” according to the Navy.