Cause of Fatal Louisiana Copter Crash Unknown

January 26, 2012

Investigators don’t yet know what caused a helicopter crash that killed two men last week near Morgan City. La.

National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Bridget Serchak tells The Courier there was “no indication of anything broken off” before the crash occurred about 9 a.m. last Thursday.

The crash killed 40-year-old pilot Jason McKean of Amite and his passenger, 44-year-old Lanny Ledet of Gheens.

Ledet worked for Cenac Marine Services of Houma, which owned the Robinson R-44. McKean was a pilot for Chet Morrison Contractors in Houma.

The NTSB is expected to release a preliminary report by next week, but a full report could take up to 18 months.

It says the helicopter crashed near Belle Isle, 13 miles southwest of Morgan City, about a half-hour after it left the Houma-Terrebonne Airport. Authorities said it was on fire when rescuers arrived.

The St. Mary Coroner’s Office found the deaths were accidental, from blunt-force injuries.

The pair was only supposed to take a trip for the day, Serchak said, and there was no flight plan.

Ledet’s son, Aaron Ledet, said his father was going to a meeting in Plaquemines Parish about alligator farming, though he was told Ledet and McKean took a detour over St. Mary Parish.

“They were just looking at some land when it happened,” Aaron Ledet said.

Loretta Conley, spokeswoman for Robinson Helicopter Company, said they are “aware of the accident and are working with officials to figure out the cause.”

Chet Morrison and Cenac share a helicopter hangar at the airport, though it is still unknown why McKean was flying Cenac’s helicopter. Representatives from Chet Morrison have said McKean was not flying on their business.

Aaron Ledet said his father, who worked at the ranch for nearly 30 years and was an avid outdoorsman, was also a helicopter pilot, and he didn’t know why his father wasn’t flying the helicopter.

McKean’s wife, Karol McKean, said her husband had flown helicopters and airplanes for nearly 20 years and had a “perfect track record.” The couple has a 12-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter.

This is the first local helicopter crash in three years. In January 2009, eight people died and another was injured when a helicopter carrying oilfield workers crashed into a west Terrebonne Parish marsh near Bayou Penchant. Investigators found that a red-tailed hawk hit the helicopter and broke its acrylic windshield, probably knocking the fire extinguisher handles into engine power control levers, cutting fuel to both engines. The Federal Aviation Administration did not then require helicopter windshields to be resistant to bird strikes, and the helicopter had no warning system to alert the crew that the rotors had slowed, it said.

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