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NTSB: Firehawk Helicopters employees tried to warn pilot shortly before crash during Leesburg test flight

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A fatal helicopter crash occurred May 25 near the Leesburg airport. Photo: Leesburg Fire Rescue via Facebook

A new report shows that two employees of Brainerd Helicopters/Firehawk Helicopters tried desperately to warn the pilot before the fatal crash of its firefighting helicopter last month near the Leesburg airport.

The accident claimed the lives of the pilot, co-pilot and two passengers.

The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says the crash occurred during a test flight for a new water tank and snorkel.

The Black Hawk helicopter had made six passes in front of the hangar. It was sucking up water from a lake and dumping it.

On the seventh pass, an employee saw the snorkel swinging and called the tower to tell the pilot to slow down and land immediately.

Before that could happen, the helicopter flew forward, gaining speed and altitude. The snorkel swung violently and there was a loud bang.

The other witness saw the blades separate and hit the tail before the helicopter broke apart, fell below the tree line and burst into flames.

She had seen snorkel’s end swinging in a big circle near the blades and ran beside the helicopter, waving her arms and trying to warn the pilot.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.