Army Releases Military Helicopter Crash Report, Won’t Say Cause

by Braxton Taylor

An Army report on the crash of a Tennessee Army National Guard UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter near Huntsville that killed two National Guardsmen says the craft flew out of a cloud layer in an “unrecoverable flight attitude” and the crew could not recover in time to avoid the ground.

The Redstone Rocket, a weekly newspaper covering the base, reported today on the releasable portions of the Army safety investigation report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. The newspaper said certain points relating to military accidents are “closely protected and exempt from disclosure” under provisions of the public information law. In this case, the cause of the accidental crash and reasons for that conclusion were not released.

The helicopter crashed Feb. 15 while flying near Huntsville on a training mission that started at 5:30 a.m. with pre-flight checkups at Joint Base Berry Field in Nashville, Tenn. and included a stop at the Enterprise, Ala., airport. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Daniel Wadham of Joelton, Tenn., and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Danny Randolph of Murfreesboro, Tenn., were on board and died in the crash.

After a successful fueling at the Huntsville International Airport and stop in Enterprise, the crew on its return trip reported being 50 miles south of Huntsville International Airport and was OK’d for landing to refuel at the airport, the Rocket story says. During its descent, the helicopter flew into and out of clouds going from visual to instrument flying. Shortly after emerging below the clouds in an “unrecoverable flight attitude,” a low altitude warning was triggered on approach control’s display, the Rocket report said. The crew was unable to “recover the aircraft,” contact with the helicopter was lost and could not be restored.

The helicopter hit the ground “in the median between the northbound and southbound lanes of Alabama 53 near the intersection of Burwell Road,” the Rocket reported. It was about 12 miles north of the airport. The crash was reported to 911 at 2:59 p.m. and the Madison County Fire Department was on the scene at 3:01, the story reports. A post-crash fire was put out by 3:12 p.m.

The Rocket said the information it obtained was released Aug. 28. The paper said it was told by Brig. Gen. Jonathan Byrom, commander of the Army Combat Readiness Center, that “in an effort to maintain and continue to increase the effectiveness of the Army’s Accident Prevention Program, certain portions of the safety report are closely protected and exempt from disclosure.” That included the review board’s conclusion on the cause of the crash and the reason or reasons for that conclusion.

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