While the NTSB is a long way from making its final determination the probable cause of a 25 March crash of a Eurocopter AS-350-B3 (N855HW) with its commercial pilot and two flight nurses on a medical repositioning flight in pre-dawn darkness, the initial NTSB report leaves little to the imagination.
Long story short, the pilot had reason to race back (from Jackson) to his home base (Brownsville) that morning. Unfortunately a very strong storm front was coming from the opposite direction. The storm, apparently, won.
From the NTSB report:
"Radar images indicated that at the approximate time of the accident, a mesoscale convective system was moving through the area, southwest to northeast, at a groundspeed of about 60 knots. The location of the most severe portion of the convective system was coincident with the accident time and location. There was also a "bow" shape in a line of severe thunderstorms near the accident site, typically associated with strong surface winds, heavy rainfall and extreme wind-shear."
Eyewitness reports, also in the report, are infamously inaccurate, but maybe not this time:
Three witnesses near the accident site stated that they saw lightning and heard thunder at the time of the accident. One witness stated that it was very windy at the time, and another stated that heavy rain bands were passing through the area.
Why in this day and age are we flying brand new multi-million dollar Eurocopters (about 200 hours since new, according to the NTSB) without something so inexpensive as Nexrad weather through XM or WSI on the dashboard? Cheaper yet, why aren't pilots carrying a service like Garmin MyPilot on their cell phones. We know from the NTSB report that one of the nurses had answered a cell phone enroute.
Of course, maybe they did have such equipment, but went and decided to try and beat the oncoming beast anyway. Hard to tell at this point, but its a shame to lose more good people, the best people, in fact, to such an avoidable accident.
Here's the local news coverage I took the above pictures from.