DEWITT, Ark. (AP) — Several bird carcasses were found in the wreckage of a medical helicopter that crashed last month in eastern Arkansas, killing all three people aboard, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report.
The cause of the Nov. 19 crash remains under investigation, but local officials have suggested that a large number of geese in the area may be to blame. The helicopter, which had a pilot and two medical personnel onboard and was heading to pick up a patient, went down in a rural area near DeWitt, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock.
The NTSB report, released this week, said residents near the accident site reported hearing a boom and seeing a fire plume. Killed in the crash were 46-year-old pilot Michael Bollen, of Hot Springs; 61-year-old flight nurse James Lawson Spruiell, of Sulligent, Alabama; and 26-year-old flight paramedic John "Trey" Auld III, of Shreveport, Louisiana.
Spruiell and Auld worked for Pafford Air One, which provides emergency transport in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma. Bollen was a pilot for Air Methods Corp.
Arkansas County Sheriff Todd Wright said at the time that a witness saw the helicopter spiral out of the sky, disturbing thousands of geese to the point that "they were louder than she had ever heard before."
Wright said the area has had an "excessive amount" of geese this fall. An NTSB investigation into a 2009 helicopter crash off the Louisiana coast that killed eight people led to the agency blaming the aircraft's collision with a red-tailed hawk. The force of that collision dislodged a fuel-system control.