Airport manager Mike Smith walks with ACPD Chief Charles Rafford at the wreck site. | Virginia Spears

Archived Story

Helicopter crash under investigation

Published 1:01pm Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating Thursday’s helicopter crash at T.C. Russell Airport, and according to airport manager Mike Smith, it may be this time next year before the investigation is complete.

“Of course, everything is still under investigation, and it may be a year before they have any findings that’s their normal routine,” Smith said.

Smith said the NTSB suspected mechanical failure as the reason for the crash, which sent the Robinson R22 helicopter occupants Alban Huve, 28, and Antonia Melgove, 39, to Russell Medical Center for treatment of their injuries.

Huve was later transported by helicopter to UAB. Smith said both Huve and Melgove have been released from the respective hospitals since Thursday.

Smith also confirmed unofficial reports that parts of the helicopter had fallen near Winn Dixie on U.S. Highway 280, though the falling pieces caused no injuries to passersby.

“There were two pieces located outside of the airport’s boundary,” Smith said. “It’s fair to say both were parts of a blade of the main rotor.”

Smith thanked the city’s police and fire departments for their rapid response to the crash.

“They were absolutely outstanding,” Smith said. “There was a fire truck at the airport as I was leaving the terminal building to hunt for the helicopter.”

Smith said both departments worked to help secure the scene.

“The biggest thing that people don’t understand is that with an NTSB investigation, it is very critical to stay out of the debris field so they can put the pieces together to try to determine what happened,” Smith said.

The helicopter’s wreckage has been moved to a secure location at the airport and is under “lock and key” until NTSB can further examine the pieces, Smith said.

“I expect them to be back to pick up some of the parts they’re interested in,” Smith said. “The aircraft owner … has been in touch with us, so when NTSB releases the helicopter, it will be here for him to pick up and carry it back to his hangar.”