Tragic helicopter crash takes lives of five

The crash happened in Sevier County, Tennessee, slightly north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The helicopter was carrying four passengers, a mother, her 22-year-old daughter, her 18-year-year-old son, a family friend and the pilot.

Reports state that the helicopter was a 1977 single-engine Bell 206L tour craft. Operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopters, the helicopter had completed one tour earlier in the day and was in the middle of its second, 12-minute tour of Pigeon Forge when it appeared to hit some sort of structure on top of the ridge before going down.

“Contact with a ridge could lead investigators to consider this crash as a Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) event, or the helicopter could have been uncontrollable if the winds were strong,” said Motley Rice aviation attorney Mary Schiavo. “Controlled flight into terrain is completely preventable with the right equipment, such as Ground Proximity Warning Systems (GPWS) and Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS). Investigators will review all the conditions surrounding this flight and determine if the pilot was using this life-saving equipment. This was one of many factors reviewed in our investigation of the 2008 crash of a Rockwell Commander in Puerto Rico. Too often, this equipment is installed on board aircraft but not routinely used, resulting in preventable crashes.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it was too early to identify the cause of the crash due to “a significant post-crash fire.” Additionally the 39-year-old helicopter did not have traditional flight recorders on board.

In its investigation, the NTSB said it will review, “how the helicopter was loaded, the aircraft's maintenance records, the pilot's background and the wind conditions at the time it crashed.”

Motley Rice aviation attorneys have experience assisting victims of helicopter crashes, including representing those on board a helicopter involved in a fatal mid-air collision over the Hudson River in August 2009. Read more about this case.

If you or someone you know has information about this crash or the circumstances of the incident, please contact Motley Rice aviation attorney Mary Schiavo by email or call +1 800.868.6456.