NTSB: Helicopter that crashed Nov. 27 didn't have enough fuel

A helicopter owned by Ashland-based Brim Aviation involved in a fatal crash Nov. 27 near Childress, Texas, had only about 20 ounces of fuel on board, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board said.

The Hughes 369D rotorcraft's operating manual requires the helicopter to maintain a minimum of about 2 gallons of fuel, said Mitchell Gallo, the NTSB air safety investigator leading the investigation.

Gallo said the helicopter's auxiliary fuel tank was empty.

"One of the things we know is that the amount of fuel onboard was below that which was usable," Gallo said.

Gallo said the cause of the crash was not yet determined, but "there was a loss of engine power."

Gallo said it could take up to a year before the investigation is complete.

"At this point, I can't talk about cause, or anything like that," he said.

According to the Amarillo Globe-News, Jonathan David Suhr, 23, who was living in McLean, Texas, was suspended about 50 feet below the helicopter hanging a roller conductor lifter on a power line when the helicopter crashed.

Suhr, who was originally from Hayden, Idaho, according to an online obituary, died at Childress Regional Medical Center as a result of the crash, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Although there were reports that the helicopter may have landed on Suhr, Gallo said, "there is no indication that happened."

The helicopter, which was hovering about 150 feet off the ground, was piloted by Keith Hard, 42, of Butte County, Calif., the Globe-News reported. Hard was taken to Childress Regional Medical Center for back injuries.

Since the incident, numerous telephone messages left at Brim Aviation's Ashland office have not been returned.

Brim employees who were reached declined to comment on the crash.

According to its website, Brim Aviation is a utility helicopter company that specializes in air rescue, aerial ignition, precision long line operations, power line construction, and aerial photography. It maintains offices in Ashland, Arizona and Alaska.

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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