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NTSB releases initial report on fatal Genesee County helicopter crash

The National Transportation and Safety Board released its initial report on the helicopter crash that killed two men during a training exercise in Elba last month.

The Mercy Flight helicopter crash occurred on April 26 around 1 p.m. in Elba, Genesee County. Two men were on board the helicopter that took off from the Genesee County Airport in Batavia. James Sauer, 60, of Churchville and Stewart M. Dietrick, 60, of Prosper, Texas were killed when the helicopter went down during a training exercise.

Sauer was a former Rochester Police Officer and pilot for the New York State Police. He spent 40 years with the National Guard.

Dietrick was a flight instructor with Bell Helicopter.

Tail rotor and main rotor blade wreckage from April 26 crash. Credit: NTSB

Related: Investigation into double fatal Mercy Flight crash will take months, says NTSB

Initial report details moments before and after crash

An excerpt from the NTSB’s preliminary reports reads, “Several eyewitnesses observed and heard the helicopter flying overhead before the accident. One stated that he observed the helicopter ‘almost stationary’ after it flew over, and then as it started to fly away, he heard a loud ‘bang’, and the helicopter began to descend out of control.

An additional witness stated that the helicopter was hovering before it “fell apart” with the fuselage falling separately and another witness stated she did not see the helicopter but heard what sounded like an engine making a ‘whooshing’ sound, then ‘three loud and rapid cracks’
in succession. She further stated that she heard the helicopter impact the ground and heard the rotor blades striking the ground rapidly.”

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

Read the report

Read the full initial report from the NTSB below: