On Monday, January 10, at approximately 11:10 pm Eastern Standard Time, a Eurocopter EC-135 helicopter operating as an air ambulance positioning flight crashed in the Potomac River, killing two of the three crew members aboard.
Today, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board inspected the fifth (and tallest) of the five cranes along the Potomac River near the Wilson Bridge construction project. No structural damage or obvious aircraft strike indications were found on this crane, or the four other cranes that were inspected yesterday.
Investigators also revisited the accident site, and the sites along the Potomac River that matched the coordinates recorded by air traffic control radar and the operator's flight-following global positioning system (GPS). The projected track along these locations toward the accident site is about 300 feet from the nearest crane.
Investigators interviewed the surviving crewmember of the accident helicopter yesterday. The survivor told investigators that he did not recall seeing or hearing any cockpit warning indications during the flight, nor did he recall any abrupt maneuvers or sudden pilot reactions as they flew over the bridge. The survivor remembered flying over the bridge at one instant and then being in the water the next instant. When asked what he thought may have happened, he responded, "my instincts tell me that we hit something."
An initial examination of the wreckage has been completed, and no obvious preimpact mechanical malfunctions were noted. The wreckage will be carefully cleaned and laid out tomorrow for a more detailed examination of its nose, cabin area, skids, and rotor blades.
Investigators at the NTSB's video laboratory are continuing attempts to enhance the bridge traffic video recording that shows an aircraft crossing the bridge about the time of the accident. Investigators will attempt to obtain aircraft performance information from the video, including the helicopter's exact altitude and position relative to the bridge.