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Duke releases names of aircrew in crash; NTSB begins crash probe

Medical Helicopter Crash-2

This aerial view shows the wreckage of the Duke Health System medical helicopter which crashed near Belvidere on Friday. Representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were on the scene Saturday investigating the crash's cause.

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Saturday, September 9, 2017

HERTFORD — The recovery of victims of a helicopter crash in Perquimans County that killed four people was underway Saturday as federal investigators began their probe into what caused the crash.

Perquimans County Sheriff Shelby White said searchers have recovered some of the victims of Friday’s crash, which claimed the lives of three Duke Life Flight crew members and one hospital patient. The helicopter was en route from Sentara Albemarle Medical Center in Elizabeth City to Duke University Hospital in Durham when it went down in a field near Belvidere. 

On Saturday, Duke University Hospital released the names of the three flight crew members killed the crash. They were identified as Jeff Burke, the helicopter pilot, and Kris Harrison and Crystal Sollinger, both of whom were registered nurses who worked as flight nurses.

Duke University Hospital said it released the crash victims’ names after their families agreed to it. “The Duke University Hospital and entire Duke University family continues to grieve their loss,” the hospital said in a statement.

The name of the fourth victim, a patient at Sentera Ablemarle, has not been released. Sentara spokesman Peter Sengenberger said Saturday the hospital was not releasing any further information for now.

White said the field off Swamp Road where the helicopter crashed is covered in grass about two feet high. The grass in the area around the crash site is about 8 feet high, he said.

The search was suspended Friday night to allow inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board time to review the helicopter’s wreckage. About a dozen people, including crews from NTSB and the FFA were at the crash site on Saturday, he said.

White said he expects some of the helicopter wreckage will be moved Saturday but some of the equipment needed for the effort may not arrive until late Saturday or Sunday.

NTSB and FFA officials met Saturday with both the manufacturer of the helicopter and its engine, and with air transport company Air Methods, according to Jonathan Nixon, Perquimans County Emergency Management director. 

Terry Williams, a spokesman for the NTSB, said his agency is in the very early stages of the investigation.

“We’re in the fact gathering phase,” he said.

As part of its investigation, the NTSB will be looking at the engines on the helicopter, the aircraft’s maintenance records, and records on the pilot.

“I stress they are all standard parts of our investigation,” Williams said.

The NTSB will also be interviewing any witnesses to the crash. Williams said there are at least four people right now who saw some phase of the helicopter crash. Anyone else who might have witnessed the crash or have information about it is asked to visit the site, witness@ntsb.gov.

White said he understands there will be meeting on Monday for those emergency responders who want counseling after responding to the helicopter crash. He had no details of where or when the meeting will be held.

Among the agencies that responded were the Belvidere Fire Department, Winfall Fire Department, Perquimans Emergency Medical Services, the N.C. Highway Patrol, Perquimans County Emergency Management, Gates Search and Rescue, Chowan EMS and N.C. Emergency Management.

Staff Writer Jon Hawley contributed to this report.

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