The pilot of a helicopter that crashed as it was lifting cedar blocks during a logging operation Tuesday was “conscious and talking” after the accident, according to the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office.
The full extent of the 63-year-old man’s injuries was not immediately known, but sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Chris Kading said the pilot, who was reported to be experienced, was alert when rescuers arrived at the crash site near Larch Lake, north of Oso.
The helicopter, a Hughes 369D, crashed shortly after takeoff, Kading said.
One report from the Sheriff’s Office indicated that the helicopter’s tail may have clipped a logging cable, but Kading said there were no cables in the area.
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The cause of the accident is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB,) according to a spokesman for the FAA.
According to NTSB records, the helicopter is registered to Olympic Air of Shelton.
A man who answered the phone at Olympic Air on Tuesday declined to comment. According to its website, the company has been providing helicopter services in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years.
NTSB records show that the helicopter had been in two previous, separate, nonfatal accidents.
The first accident occurred on Nov. 16, 1996, in Forks, when the chopper lost engine power during a logging operation and hit some trees while making an the emergency landing, the report says.
The cause of the crash, which left one person seriously injured, was determined to be a loss of engine power caused by fuel contamination that disrupted the flow from the fuel nozzles, the report says.
The NTSB determined that improper servicing of the helicopter contributed to the accident, records show.
The second accident, which caused minor injuries to one person, occurred after the helicopter had been involved in logging operations for about an hour in Taholah, Grays Harbor County, on April 7, 2003.
Investigators determined the helicopter had run out of gas and that the float, which shows how much fuel is in the tank, had become entangled in start-pump wiring that had not been properly secured, records show.
Jeff Jones, an attorney specializing in aviation litigation, said it’s too early to know what, if anything, the number of crashes means.
“Helicopter logging in the Northwest has historically been, and continues to be, a dangerous activity. The fact that this helicopter has previously been involved in at least two crashes could be an indication of a problem with the aircraft or maintenance,” Jones said.
“However, it also could simply be a function of the length of time the aircraft has been in service and the workload to which it has been subjected. At this stage, without more information, it is impossible to determine what occurred in this crash.”
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Seattle Times staff reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.