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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 260522
Last updated: 24 November 2021
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Time:c. 18:15
Type:Silhouette image of generic R44 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Robinson R44 Raven II
Registration: ZS-RSK
MSN: 10174
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Substantial
Location:Vaal Dam Reservoir, Gauteng/Free State -   South Africa
Phase: Approach
Departure airport:Johannesburg/Germiston-Rand Airport (QRA/FAGM)
Destination airport:Burgundy Bay
Investigating agency: CAA SouthAfrica
On 14 May 2021, a Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter with registration mark ZS-RSK was involved in a fatal accident in the Vaal Marina Bay, Gauteng province. On-board the helicopter were two occupants, the pilot-in-command who was seated on the right-side of the helicopter, and the passenger seated on the left-side. The pilot and the passenger had two dogs with them, which were on the rear seats of the helicopter.
The passenger was the pilotís sister and was coming to visit for a weekend with family at their weekend home in Vaal Marina. The helicopter took off from Rand Airport (FAGM) at approximately 1530Z with the intention to land on a strip near the pilotís residence, located at Burgundy Bay in Vaal Marina Bay. The helicopter took off in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) by day; it approached the intended landing destination under night conditions.
The helicopter approached from a north-westerly direction at a low height, above the water before making a turn (over the water) to line up for a straight-in approach for landing on an open grassy strip between the dam and the houses. According to the statement from one of the house guests who was already at the pilotís house, about three minutes before final approach, the pilot had contacted the eyewitness via cellular phone to request that they switch on the spotlight mounted on the highest point of the house to shine a light onto the landing spot. The spotlight faced the bay as well as the direction of approach for landing. As requested by the pilot, the light was switched on and, as expected, the helicopter approached for landing while the eyewitness made a recording of the approaching helicopter. In the video footage, no anomalies with the engine and the helicopter operation were noted during approach; also, the water in the bay was calm and glassy, mirroring the surroundings. In the video footage, the helicopter approaches in a normal flight path as the pilot had done in the past when landing.
The helicopter is then observed descending rapidly and flying very low towards the water surface while turning towards the landing site. It then struck the water surface, followed by a bright spark and a loud bang. The loud bang heard from the video was attributed to the main rotor severing the tail boom section which separated from the helicopter before sinking. The helicopter lay on its right-side with the left skid gear on top before being completely submerged in water.
The bodies of the pilot and the passenger were recovered on the day of the accident. The body of the passenger was recovered by one of the fishermen who were camping on the west-side of the bay about 150 metres (m) from where the helicopter was observed floating a few minutes after the accident and before it was submerged in water. The pilotís body was recovered later by the South African Police Service (SAPS) Diving Unit at a depth of 9.13m. Both occupants were confirmed fatally injured by emergency services personnel on site.
The helicopter was recovered the next day (15 May 2021) in the same area where the pilotís body was found, about 200m from the edge of the shoreline. It was located 9.13m below the surface of the water. Two floating lifting bags were attached to the helicopter to bring it up to the water surface and it was then pulled to the shore using its skids.
The helicopter was substantially damaged. The main rotor blades were bent as a result of impact with water and, later, broke off after striking the aft tail-boom section. The right-side windshield had detached completely from its frame. The edges of the left-side windshield remained in the frame, with some shattered smaller pieces of the windshield found in the wreckage, while some larger pieces were recovered and had multiple cracks on them.

The investigation established that based on the video footage obtained from a witness on site, the helicopter flew over calm, glassy waters that mirrored the surroundings. It is, thus, likely that the glassy water illusion could have given the pilot the perception that the helicopter was higher than it actually was, causing the pilot to reduce height, which resulted in the helicopter making contact with the water surface, and hence the subsequent crash.

Picture sent by Telegram

Accident investigation:
Investigating agency: CAA SouthAfrica
Status: Investigation completed
Duration: 2 months
Download report: Final report


Revision history:

14-May-2021 21:55 Geno Added
15-May-2021 02:51 Geno Updated [Source]
16-May-2021 11:09 Raffles Updated [Embed code]
17-May-2021 05:47 Raffles Updated [Registration, Cn, Source]
17-May-2021 08:35 RobertMB Updated [Aircraft type, Operator, Phase, Nature, Damage, Narrative]
25-Jul-2021 19:17 harro Updated [Phase, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative, Category, Accident report]

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