ELBA, N.Y. — The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the deadly Mercy Flight helicopter crash on April 26, 2022 in Genesee County.
The NTSB has determined that the probable cause(s) of the accident were "the pilots' inappropriate flight control inputs while in vortex ring state, which resulted in main rotor blade contact with the tail boom and a subsequent in-flight breakup, and the flight instructor’s inadequate monitoring of the flight."
The helicopter went down near the town of Elba, off of Norton Road, about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester. Pilot James Sauer, 60, of Churchville, a retired New York State Police pilot and former Rochester Police officer, and Stewart Dietrick, 60, of Prosper, Texas, a flight instructor, died in the crash.
The crash took place during the second instructional flight of the day, with multiple flight reviews planned throughout the day.
The preliminary report states that several witnesses saw and heard the helicopter flying overhead before the crash. One witness said that he saw that the helicopter was “almost stationary” after it flew over, and then as it began flying away, he heard a loud “bang,” and the helicopter began to descend out of control.
The report says that an additional witness said the helicopter was hovering before it “fell apart” with the fuselage falling separately.
Another witness reported that they heard what sounded like a “whoosing” sound coming from the engine, and then heard “three loud and rapid cracks,” according to the report, before hearing the helicopter impact the ground and the rotor blades hitting the ground rapidly.
The NTSB report says that the helicopter fuselage containing the cockpit, engine, transmission and rotor assembly struck electrical distribution wires while impacting the terrain at about 1,220 ft. The helicopter then came to a rest of its left side and a small fire started that had started post-crash was quickly extinguished by first responders, the report says.
The final report can be read below: