Federal and local officials are investigating the emergency crash landing of a helicopter in Calaveras County, California, July 20 that left three Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) workers with minor injuries.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the incident along with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said that the helicopter experienced a loss of power that caused it to descend rapidly, according to CBS 13 San Francisco.
The McDonnell Douglas 600N helicopter went down near Highway 12 between the towns of San Andreas and Valley Springs, about 45 miles southeast of Sacramento. The helicopter caught fire but the three PG&E workers were able to escape the burning aircraft without serious injury. All three were taken to the hospital and treated for unspecified injuries.
Sergeant Greg Stark with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office told CBS San Francisco that considering the terrain of the area, the accident easily could have been much worse.
“They’re extremely lucky. If they would’ve landed on the side of the hill, the helicopter could’ve rolled, they could’ve been in thick vegetation where the fire could have spread more rapidly,” he told CBS.
The NTSB, FAA, and others continue to investigate another helicopter crash that killed three PG&E contractors last month near Fairfield, California.
Authorities say the Bell 206 helicopter involved in that crash struck high-voltage power lines, causing it to plummet to the ground. The crash killed all three aboard the aircraft and ignited a wildfire that consumed several acres.
The Union Democrat of Sonora, California, reported that PG&E had dispatched helicopter crews between New Melones and Yosemite National Park to for drill for power shutdowns when the risk of wildfires increases.
The bankrupt utility remains saddled with lawsuits, government penalties, and criminal convictions for its role in causing the deadly November 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed two Butte County, California, towns, killing 85 people and injuring scores of others.
PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January 2019 under the strain of an estimated $30 billion in liabilities for its part in causing wildfires that swept through California in 2015 and 2017 in addition to the 2018 Camp Fire. The fires collectively killed 130 people and displaced hundreds of people.
Although the nature of the work of the crew involved in the most recent crash is unknown, the incident underscores the risk of serious injury and death that aerial linemen and other electrical utility workers face on the job. Annually, 21 per 100,000 electrical power-line installers and repairers die from work-related injuries, making it one of the top-ten most dangerous occupations.
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation. He currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In addition to his Ethiopian Airlines crash clients, Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.