Fatal police helicopter crash in Slovakia due to technical failure: preliminary Interior Ministry finding

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Last week's police helicopter accident in eastern Slovakia was caused by technical failure and not human error, said the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic on Friday. The statement is based on preliminary flight recorder data analysis. Ministry spokesperson Petar Lazarov confirmed the flight recorder and remains of the helicopter will be sent to the United States for further analysis. Helicopter crash occurred during a training exercise on May 10 shortly before 2:30 PM CEST at Prešov Air Base near Prešov, resulting in deaths of two crewmembers and serious injuries of both pilots.

Slovak police helicopter Bell 429, registration OM-BYM, in August 2015.
Image: Puki301.

According to initial reports by the Slovak Police Force, the helicopter spiraled down from a height of about 100 metres and 200 metres away from the point of take-off. Slovak tabloid newspaper Plus Jeden Deň wrote that, according to a source from the forensic team that analysed flight recorders data, both rotors failed at the same time.

The accident caused fatal injuries to two Fire and Rescue Corps firefighters, First Lieutenant ((sk)) Slovak language: nadporučík Peter Toďor, born 1974, and Lieutenant Colonel ((sk)) Slovak language: podplukovník Radoslav Lacko, born 1968. According to reports, one died on the site, and one in the Louis Pasteur University Hospital in Košice. "The patient suffered serious head and chest injuries. Our doctors resuscitated him for about 50 minutes. Ultimately, he died of his injuries," said hospital spokesperson Ivana Stašková. Both firefighters were buried on May 16. The helicopter pilots were hospitalized with serious injuries in the Ján Adam Reiman Teaching Hospital with Polyclinic in Prešov. While one of them was stabilized and conscious already on May 10, suffering from right femoral fracture, right rib and facial bone fracture, the second one is still in serious condition at the Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Medicine, said hospital spokesperson Renáta Cenková.

The Bell 429 GlobalRanger helicopter, registration OM-BYM, was made in 2014 and commissioned by the Aviation Department of the Ministry of Interior on August 17, 2015. The Aviation Department later commissioned another Bell 429 helicopter, registration OM-BYD. According to Bell Helicopter, the primary purpose of both these helicopters was to be "border protection, search and rescue, natural disaster relief missions and road traffic law enforcement".

Bell Helicopter reacted on the incident, expressing condolences and willingness to assist with the investigation. Members of the National Council started their late-afternoon session on May 10 with a minute of silence for the victims of the crash. Other government officials expressed their condolences as well, including the President Andrej Kiska, the Prime Minister Robert Fico, and the Mayor of Prešov Andrea Turčanová.

This accident was not the first Bell 429 helicopter crash in Slovakia. On September 7 of last year, an Air-Transport Europe rescue helicopter crashed near Banská Bystrica, killing all three crewmen and a patient aboard. Investigation is still in progress and no preliminary results are known.


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