Safety & Training
Miami helicopter crash claims two lives
April 4, 2013 By The Miami Herald
April 4, 2013, Miami, Fla. - Federal investigators are dismantling a helicopter that crashed shortly after takeoff from Kendall Tamiami Executive Airport Wednesday afternoon, killing the pilot and passenger.
The helicopter wreckage will be taken to a secure facility, where investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will examine the evidence and ultimately determine the cause of the crash, said Peter Knudson, an agency spokesman.
Though police had not released the names of the men who died, a friend at the scene late Wednesday said the pilot was Mark Palmieri, who owned Bravo Helicopters based at the airport, and the passenger was Ross Allan. Both men sustained severe chest injuries.
Palmieri was saved two years ago after a dramatic Everglades crash, also in a helicopter of the same make and model, a Robinson R-44.
According to Federal Aviation Administration records, the registration for a Robinson R-44 helicopter belonging to Bravo Helicopters was canceled in February 2011. The FAA did not indicate a reason for the cancellation.
In Wednesday’s accident, no one on the ground was injured at the industrial park where the crash occurred. Witnesses rushed out with fire extinguishers to put out the fire and to pull the victims out of the burning four-seat aircraft.
“I was sick,” said Valerie Senior, 18, who saw the chopper crash and the aftermath in an industrial park in Southwest Miami-Dade. “I wanted to help the men.”
She rushed out of her mother’s gym after hearing the helicopter’s tail break off, which she thought was a truck crash at first. She saw the helicopter come down between two palm trees and burst into flames.
Her mother, Julia Senior, 43, was outside on the phone about 10 feet away from the crash.
“It’s something really horrible to happen in front of you,” said Julia Senior, who owns the Fitness Factory gym in the industrial park on the 13000 block of Southwest 122nd Avenue. “I cried for half an hour.”
The two women ran back inside to escape the fire.
“Smoke started coming right inside the door,” Valerie Senior said.
Miami-Dade police spokesman Roy Rutland said homicide detectives will join the National Transportation Safety Board in investigating the crash. Federal Aviation Administration officials also will be involved.
Among the scenarios being considered is that the chopper collided with a bird, said NTSB investigator Patrick Murray Wednesday night. “We have witnesses reporting there were birds in the area,” he said.
The men were flying a Robinson R-44 helicopter, which measures about 30-feet long and weighs 1,500 pounds. They took off from the airport shortly before 4 p.m.
The manufacturer of that model had issued an order to fix to the fuel tanks, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS4.
Focus fell on the choppers in the fall of 2008, two years after a deadly crash in the Dominican Republic that left four people dead.
In the past, aviation attorneys have sued Robinson claiming the choppers’ gas tanks are improperly designed and will burst and catch fire even in low impact crashes, CBS4 said.
Robinson helicopters issued a retrofit order to make the fuel tanks stronger, but owners have until April 30th to comply.
It is not known if the helicopter involved in Wednesday’s crash had its fuel tank retrofitted.