LEESBURG, Fla. - Leesburg Police are not releasing the names yet of the four people who were aboard a firefighting Black Hawk helicopter that crashed Tuesday near the Leesburg International Airport.
The Sikorsky UH-60 firefighting helicopter crashed into a marsh near the airport., during a training exercise, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The crash happened around 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, officials confirmed that the involved aircraft belonged to Brainerd Helicopters Inc./Firehawk Helicopters, located within Leesburg International Airport.
Images of the horrifying crash scene are especially disturbing to Jerry Kidrick, a former Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor who is also a certified flight accident investigator.
"It's a real tragedy of course, whenever something like this happens," Kidrick said.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be in charge of the investigation and forthcoming updates.
"The NTSB is looking for any signs that would indicate what would happen, they're taking witness statements, looking at components, going piece-by-piece through that helicopter to see if there's some kind of smoking gun to indicate what might have happened to cause this accident."
Kidrick said from what he's seen of the wreckage, it's possible that the back propellor may have hit something.
"It appears they were in a wooded area. If they were down picking up water in a pond, or down low dropping water, they may have impacted the tail rotor in the trees or some other inanimate object -- a wire, pole, antenna, something like that."
He said the cables connecting the helicopter to the bucket may also have snapped.
"If, for some reason, one of those breaks, the one carrying the heavy load of the bucket, on occasion those have snapped back up into the rotor system. So potentially, the wires may have come back up, hit the tail rotor, and caused that sequence that I described."
Overall, though, Kidrick said Black Hawk helicopters are well-suited for fighting fires.
"This aircraft is well-qualified to do what they were doing and does throughout the country actually, in fire season."
The NTSB said it may take up to two years to complete their investigation.
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