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NTSB Post It's Preliminary Accident Report in New Mexico State Police Helicopter Crash

The NTSB has published the preliminary accident report involving the New Mexico State Police Rescue Helicopter which crashed on the 12,000' level of Mount Santa Fe Baldy earlier this month. The report confirms earlier news reports that the helicopter likely entered inadvertent IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) shortly after lifting off and subsequently suffered a tail rotor strike as a result.

The report also confirmed that the helicopter involved in the crash was the Agusta Spa A-109E helicopter, N606SP.  The entire NTSB preliminary report is available on the NTSB website.

During the same time that the NTSB published their initial report, New Mexico State Police released the recordings of radio transmissions between the pilot and the New Mexico State Dispatch Center.  The pilot's wife was not only on duty at the communications center, but actually the dispatcher on the other end of the radio transmissions.  The pilot, Sgt. Tingwall, called her by name and advised he had hit the mountain, and that he was "going down."  The helicopter continued to fly for just under a minute before impacting the side of the mountain and rolling 800' to it's final resting place below. 

In addition to all of the events leading up to the tail rotor strike, the accident investigation will likely also focus on why Sgt. Tingwall and the hiker, Ms. Yamamoto were ejected from the aircraft, resulting in their deaths.  The medical examiner determined that Sgt. Tingwall died of hypothermia complicated by injuries suffered during the crash.

File photo of Agusta 109 helicopter, Juergen Lehle photo Wikimedia Commons. The Agusta Westland A-109E Power Helicopter is an 8 passenger (1- pilot 7- passenger) twin engine helicopter with a top speed of 168  knots (VNE) a service ceiling of 19,600', and an "in ground effect" hover ceiling of 16,600'. 

What we have not learned from the NTSB's report is if Sgt. Tingwall was an IFR rated pilot and if the crew were operating on night vision goggles, (NVG's do not provide any measure of safety when flying in the clouds, however they may help prevent inadvertent flight into clouds.)

This remains a sad day in police aviation.