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New Details Released in Fatal 2011 Mayo Chopper Crash

Posted at: 05/09/2013 9:21 PM
Updated at: 05/09/2013 9:25 PM

  (ABC 6 News) -- We are learning new details in a Mayo helicopter crash that killed two Mayo Clinic employees two years ago.

In a very detailed ten page report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, investigators point to several factors that played a role in that fatal 2011 crash.

As we reported a Mayo helicopter with Dr. Luis Bonilla and Mayo Technician David Hines were headed to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida to pick up a heart for a patient in Jacksonville, when the helicopter they were in crashed. Also killed included the pilot, E. Hoke Smith, 68.

The report indicates that the helicopter was flying at altitudes of 450 to 950 feet. Weather conditions in that area included heavy fog and were described as a "black hole" at altitudes of 200 to 400 feet by former pilots.

The report also says the helicopter was was descending when it hit a tree at just 30 feet off the ground. However, no distress call was ever made.

Troubling details about the pilot's company -- SK Jets -- were also revealed in the report. The investigation shows the business was $9 million in debt and that the helicopters were not up to date on maintenance, including the one that flew that night.

A NTSB panel will now review the report before making a final determination on the cause of the crash.

For the full report, Click Here