In a recent report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a pilot named Daron Roche recounted the events that took place just moments before his helicopter caught fire and crashed into an apartment building in Florida, resulting in the deaths of two individuals. According to the preliminary report, Roche stated that he heard a loud bang when his twin-engine Broward County Fire-Rescue helicopter was approximately 400 feet in the air after taking off from Pompano Beach Airpark on August 28th.
At that point, Roche noticed that the temperature of one of the engines was rising on his control panel. Realizing the severity of the situation, he immediately radioed air traffic controllers to inform them of the emergency. He attempted to return to the airport, but unfortunately, the situation worsened. The report revealed that a fire warning light had appeared, prompting Roche to activate the suppression system. However, despite his efforts, the temperature gauge continued to rise uncontrollably, as recounted by Roche during the investigation.
Shortly after the initial bang, Roche heard a second one, causing the helicopter to spiral out of control. According to the report, the tail of the helicopter had partially separated from the aircraft during this chaotic event. Tragically, the helicopter ultimately crashed into an apartment building, claiming the lives of Captain Terryson Jackson, a paramedic, and Lurean Wheaton, a resident of the apartment complex. Roche and paramedic Mike Chaguaceda sustained injuries in the crash.
The report further disclosed that the helicopter, which was built in 1999, had undergone engine rebuilding approximately seven years ago. Its most recent inspection took place in May. However, the specific cause of the fire has yet to be determined by the NTSB. Typically, their investigations take around a year to complete.
The tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the dangers faced by rescue pilots like Daron Roche, who put their lives at risk every day to save others. The preliminary report sheds some light on the sequence of events leading up to the crash but leaves many unanswered questions. The NTSB will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the root cause, hopefully preventing similar accidents in the future.