NTSB finds possible cause of Fresno helicopter crash. See the final moments of descent

Bethany Clough/bclough@fresnobee.com

Federal investigators on the scene of a helicopter crash Saturday in southeast Fresno reported Monday that they have developed information that may establish just what went wrong when the aircraft went down.

The helicopter clipped the edge of a house, sheared off the top of a palm tree and hit the ground on its side shortly before 10 a.m. in the 4900 block of East Garrett Avenue, near Jensen and Willow avenues, just south of a canal.

Monday, Jennifer Gabris of the National Transportation Safety Board said preliminary information was that the Bell 206B lost tail rotor control during a maintenance check flight. Gabris said NTSB investigators “will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation.”

The preliminary report is expected to be published within three weeks. She noted that the NTSB does not state a cause but will provide factual information when available. Investigations currently take between 12 and 24 months to complete.

Witnesses saw the helicopter spinning in the air before it crashed. A Ring video from a home across the street, shared on social media, shows the final seconds of the crash. A woman at the home Monday declined to speak to a reporter.

No one in the home was injured. The crash did “very minor” damage to some fascia board on the home, police said.

The 47-year-old pilot and a 33-year-old passenger, both men, had minor injuries, and were taken to Community Regional Medical Center.

Kathy Logan, who lives in the Oak Park senior housing complex across the street, said, “That was a Jesus moment – that he didn’t hit nothing and nobody (else) was hurt. Thank goodness it was just a tree.”