Damaged tail rotor to blame for helicopter crash in 2018 that killed Leicester owner and 4 others

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LONDON (AP) – A damaged tail rotor was blamed for a helicopter crash that killed the owner of English soccer club Leicester and four others in 2018, an accident investigation said Wednesday.

The Leonardo AW169 helicopter took off from the middle of the pitch after a Premier League match at the King Power Stadium in Leicester and rose about 430 feet (130 m) above the ground. It then turned around and fell on a concrete step outside the stadium.

Vichai Srivadhanaprabha, who owned Leicester at the time, were all killed in the crash, along with club employees Nusara Suknamai and Caveporn Poonpare, pilot Eric Swaffer and Swaffer’s partner, Isabella Rosa Lechoich.

An inquiry by the British Government Air Accidents Investigation Branch found The helicopter’s control system failed because a bearing in the tail rotor broke as its balls slid instead of rolling under pressure.

The pilot’s paddles became disconnected from the tail rotor, investigators found, and caused the plane to make a sharp right turn that was “impossible” to control.

The investigation described it as a “catastrophic failure”, causing the helicopter to spin around five times rapidly.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” Swaffer said of the plane spiraling out of control.

Asked if it was “an accident waiting to happen”, Adrian Cope – the AAIB’s senior inspector of engineering – said: “It was a process that built up over time. The damage to that bearing built up over time.”

The bearing required inspection only once after 400 hours of use, but the helicopter had only flown 331 hours at the time of the accident.

The 209-page report ruled out drone involvement and pilot error.

Four of the five passengers survived the initial impact on the ground, but none survived as the helicopter caught fire within a minute after a large fuel leak.

Authorities from Canada, France, Italy and the United States were also involved in the investigation because of where various critical components of the helicopter were manufactured.

The AAIB has made eight safety recommendations to the European Aviation Safety Agency for “weaknesses or omissions” in helicopter certification rules. These deal with the design, validation and monitoring of safety critical components.

The accident happened in October. 27, 2018, about an hour after a match between Leicester and West Ham.

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AP Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer



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