Feds say Ore. firefighter helicopter that crashed was pushing weight limit
By Stuart Tomlinson and Helen Jung
WASHINGTON — An Oregon-based firefighting helicopter that crashed last year and killed nine men was 2,000 pounds heavier than U.S. Forest Service guidelines recommend, documents from the National Transportation Safety Board show.
That put it near its maximum weight for a safe, vertical takeoff under the weather conditions, according to documents released by the agency Wednesday. That means the helicopter, laden with fuel, firefighters and equipment, required nearly the maximum power the engines could provide.
Instead of climbing up, the helicopter went forward, clipping the tops of trees and crashing back to the ground, the report found. Seven firefighters from Oregon, the pilot, also from Oregon, and a Forest Service inspector pilot from California were killed. Four other Oregonians were injured in one of the worst firefighting air crashes in U.S. history.
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