NTSB and FAA investigate helicopter crash site - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

NTSB and FAA investigate helicopter crash site


Aviation administrators try to piece together what caused Rockford Health System's "REACT" helicopter to go down in a field just south of Rochelle.

The investigation is far from over for the NTSB and the FAA.  Representatives say the severity of the crash along with less than ideal conditions are making progress near impossible.

"On scene investigation will take a couple of days, it'll be about 6 months until we have a final report," said Arnold Scott.

National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Arnold Scott doesn't anticipate knowing what brought the helicopter down any time soon.

So for now, they work with what they do know.  

"While en route to Mendota the pilot radioed to the dispatch saying that the helicopter had encountered weather, that the aircraft was turning around and return to Rockford Memorial Hospital," Dr. Dennis Uehara.

That was the last time dispatch heard from pilot Andy Olesen.  He was flying with two Rockford Health System flight nurses, Jim Dillow and Karen Hollis, when the chopper went down.

After the call from Olesen about the weather, telecommunicators got concerned when they didn't hear from anyone on board the flight again.  They called the lee county sheriff's department for help.

"Initial search was being set up to search for the aircraft," said Lee County Sheriff, John Varga.

Emergency responders didn't have to search long.  They soon found the lost helicopter piece by piece.

Dispatch center received reports from the field that the helicopter had crashed," said Dr. Dennis Uehara, RMH Department of Emergency Medicine.

It was the sound that nearby farmer Michael Bernardin reacted to first.  

All the sudden I heard something strange with the helicopter was going on and it almost sounded like they were coming down at the house here.

From inside the house, Bernardin saw lights that looked like they were moving out of control.  Then he heard another sound, a thud.  
That was enough to get the farmer out the door and in his truck.  When Sheriff John Varga arrived, Bernardin was parked, headlights shining on twisted metal spread all throughout the field.

"Two large areas as far as the impact and just debris scattered everywhere throughout the field," said Varga.

"By the looks of the thing it was pretty nasty, pretty bad and then when it hit last night I knew that there was no way they could survive that," said Bernardin.

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