What caused Tuesday’s fatal helicopter crash? We asked an expert

Local

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Dec. 15, the St. Charles Parish Coroner’s Office has identified the deceased pilot as Joshua L. Hawley from Livingston Parish.


KENNER, La. (WGNO) — Multiple factors may have contributed to Tuesday’s fatal helicopter crash according to one expert.

The helicopter was headed from Gonzales to Lakefront Airport when it apparently clipped some powerlines and crashed on Interstate 10 over the Bonnet Carre Spillway at about 12:30 in the afternoon.

At the time, weather conditions in the area included fog and low clouds, at least around the crash site.

“I think when the gentleman actually took off from Gonzales, he had good weather. And when he hit the spillway area, the ceiling dropped a lot,” Lester Cambre, Jr., told WGNO News.

“And he might have been trying to get through maybe another mile or so and he would have hit clean air.”

Cambre has been flying since 1985. He can pilot airplanes and helicopters and has been an instructor for a decade.

The pilot was killed in the crash. Nobody on the ground was injured. The eastbound lanes of I-10 were closed on the spillway and the traffic was diverted off of the interstate while first responders and investigators could finish their work.

But Cambre also says there could have been other factors. He says that too often pilots feel pressured to get passengers where they need to go. In Tuesday’s case, the pilot was on his way to pickup some people who were waiting at Lakefront Airport. Cambre says that sometimes pilots make dangerous decisions in the name of getting the job done.

“It’s called land and live. In other words, when you run into a fog bank, there’s questions on if you should turn back or keep going through it,” he said.

The aircraft was a Bell 407, a popular and workhorse of a helicopter. Cambre said that it could carry 6 or 7 people as well as their cargo while flying for more than two hours.

But even if the helicopter was the latest and greatest, Cambre says nobody is inventing new ways to crash, and it’s the same mistakes that too often cost pilots — and sometimes their passengers — their lives.

“There’s better technology out there, but we’re still causing accidents the same way we did for 80 years,” he said.

Entergy says that the helicopter was responsible for taking down powerlines when it crashed that cut the power to about 20,000 customers. By 3:00 in the afternoon, Entergy says the power had been restored.

The NTSB will investigate the cause of the crash. The DOTD released an update on the closure of the interstate, saying it would remain closed until about 2 a.m. Wednesday.

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