Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 | 10:54 p.m.
A National Transportation Safety Board team hopes to land new information Friday when its members interview witnesses and resume the investigation of the crash of a tour helicopter Wednesday near Lake Mead Wednesday that left five people dead.
“Tomorrow really is the first full day of investigation,” said Mark Rosekind, a member of the NTSB, during a press briefing Thursday night at the Henderson Fire Training Center.
Earlier Thursday, six of the 12 NTSB investigators went to the crash site, which is in an “extremely rugged V-shaped canyon,” Rosekind said.
Remains of the pilot and the four passengers of the helicopter were recovered Thursday by the Clark County Coroner’s Office, according to the Associated Press.
Rosekind described the remote location of the crash site in the River Mountains near Lake Mead as a 150-feet deep canyon that is 150 to 200 feet wide at the mouth and 100 to 30 feet wide at its base.
Flames had consumed most of the helicopter, which crashed around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday into the north side of a canyon 20 feet above the canyon’s base, Rosekind said. Investigators will spend at least three days at the site.
The aircraft is owned by Sundance Helicopters a company based in Las Vegas. Sundance has a history of repeated aviation violations, according to the AP. A Sundance pilot and six passengers were killed in a September 2003 helicopter crash at the Grand Canyon West Airport.
A helicopter traveling from the Grand Canyon in August of 2009 with six passengers made an unexpected landing at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area when the aircraft was experiencing electrical problems, according to the AP. No injuries were reported.
The helicopter tour Wednesday evening was traveling to the Hoover Dam when it went down.
The pilot was Landon Nield, 31, who had been flying for about seven years, according to Sundance officials. Nield had just been married in June in Las Vegas.
Two of the passengers have been identified as Delwin and Tamara Chapman, of Utica, Kan., the AP reports. The couple was in Las Vegas celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.
Identities of the remaining individuals on board the flight will be released by the Coroner’s Office after the next of kin have been notified.
The NTSB investigation team, led by Bill English, will work to examine the helicopter wreckage at the crash site.
Because of the terrain, investigators are not able to easily remove items from the scene, Rosekind said. Pieces of the wreckage may be airlifted out of the canyon or removed by off-road vehicles for further analysis.
Investigators will assess the helicopter's operations, its air worthiness and its maintenance as well as human factors that might have contributed to the crash, Rosekind said.
Witnesses will also be interviewed, Rosekind said. Currently the NTSB has two confirmed witnesses and investigators think more people who either heard or saw the crash will come forward.
NTSB’s goal is to document the site and issue a safety recommendation to prevent future accidents, Rosekind said. A preliminary report of the crash will be released as soon as 10 days from today. A full report of the crash and its cause could take nine months to a year.