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Cables caught on fuel tank led to Nanoose Bay helicopter crash: TSB report

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There are new details emerging about a helicopter crash that seriously injured a pilot on Vancouver Island late last year.

Suspension cables that were hanging from the low-flying forestry chopper became snagged on a fuel tank on the back of a nearby trailer, causing the helicopter to roll and the main rotor blades to strike the ground, according to a newly released Transportation Safety Board report.

The pilot, who was apparently unaware of the snag, was knocked unconscious in the Nov. 4 crash, according to the preliminary report released Tuesday.

Two ground ambulance crews and several volunteer firefighters rushed to the scene in a forested area south of Nanoose Bay, B.C., shortly after 12:30 p.m.

An air ambulance was also dispatched and the downed pilot was eventually airlifted to hospital in serious condition.

The Bell 206B helicopter, built in 1980 and operated by HeliQwest Aviation, was destroyed in the accident.

The TSB investigation found the pilot had lowered a tree topper onto the trailer and was attempting to land behind the trailer with the suspension cables still attached.

As the aircraft descended to two metres above the ground, it became unstable and started to roll over.

The pilot ascended slightly to stabilize the craft and then attempted to land again. When the helicopter was less than a metre from the ground, the pilot felt a slight tug from the cables and the helicopter again began to tip, according to the report.

Unaware that the cables were hooked on the trailer's fuel tank, the pilot lost control as the helicopter rolled over and struck the ground, the TSB report says.

"A few minutes after the accident, a company maintenance employee returned to the staging area and saw the helicopter on its side with the engine still running," according to the report.

"Concerned about the potential for a fire, the maintenance employee unbuckled the pilot and pulled them from the wreckage," the report says. "First aid attendants responded and assisted the pilot, who was transferred to the local hospital with serious injuries."

The helicopter had been performing forestry work when it crashed near Matthew Road, approximately three kilometres from Nanoose Bay. 

A HeliQwest representative declined to comment on the extent of the pilot's injuries Thursday saying she was not authorized to do so.

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