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Robinson R44 Helicopter Experienced Hard Landing in Sherman Oaks

Four people suffered minor injuries after a helicopter experienced a hard landing in Sherman Oaks, California. Luckily, despite the aircraft crash-landing on a residential street, no homes or people on the ground were hit, and those on board walked away with minor injuries.

Four Injured in Helicopter Accident 

On Friday, July 21, 2017, a Robinson R44, which was owned by a company that offers charter services and tours, experienced a hard landing. It's not yet known what led to the hard landing, but the pilot brought the aircraft down in the 15000 block of Valleyheart Drive in Sherman Oaks, California. Amazingly, the pilot managed to land on a street that has little traffic. The only damage on the ground was to a fence.

Four people were on the aircraft during the accident, including the pilot and a 16-year-old girl. Firefighters who were called to the scene said three of the occupants were sitting on the curb and a fourth one was standing. All four-two men, a woman and the 16-year-old-were taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

"This was ultimately a good day," said Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Daniel Curry. "It looks like the pilot performed with skill to avoid structures. There are residences in this area. He was able to put the helicopter down mostly on a street, a very not well-traveled street." The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the circumstances that led to the hard landing.

Witnesses Describe Hearing Helicopter Hard Landing 

Christian Cabrera, who lives down the street from where the landing occurred, described hearing a loud propeller and feeling that the sound seemed too close when a boom sounded.

"It didn't sound like a car crash," Cabrera said. "It sounded like a truck or something...boom! And a few minutes later, I heard a lot of sirens go off."

Pilot Issued May Day Call from Robinson R44 

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot was able to issue a May Day call before the hard landing. Despite the lack of damage to nearby residences, the helicopter itself "sustained substantial damage." The yellow water-landing pontoons were also deployed in the accident.

Both the FAA and the NTSB are investigating the crash. Valleyheart Drive from Noble Avenue to Sepulveda Boulevard was closed while investigators examined the accident site.

"Obviously there will be an investigation to see what the cause [of the crash] was," said Richard Hart, a representative of National Helicopter Service. "I'm extremely ecstatic that all the people are relatively uninjured. Minor injuries is all I have heard. The helicopter is pretty much destroyed, however all the emergency equipment on board appears to have done its job."

New Zealand Investigating Robinson Helicopters 

Earlier in 2017, New Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIC) announced it was investigating four accidents that involved Robinson helicopters. According to their reports, in a 20-year period, 18 people were killed in 14 crashes that involved Robinson aircraft. Of those crashes, six occurred within a four-year period. Meanwhile, in 2016, New Zealand's Department of Conservation suspended use of Robinson aircraft after concerns were raised about mast bump accidents and in October 2016, the TAIC added Robinson Helicopters to its most pressing concerns watchlist .

Mast bump accidents can be particularly fatal because they often cause the helicopter to break apart while in flight. Mast bumps occur in strong winds and turbulence when the inner part of a main rotor blade contacts with the main rotor drive shaft (the mast).

Officials are not sure of what specifically causes a mast bump to occur. Part of the reason for concern in New Zealand, however, are the mountainous terrain, the risk of heavy winds, and the turbulence.

"[Mast bumping] accidents have raised concerns about the risks of flying these helicopters in the mountainous terrain and weather conditions that are common in New Zealand," the TAIC wrote.

In 2013, an episode of 60 Minutes Australia aired a report on the Robinson Helicopter Company that noted that in two years, eight Australians died in crashes involving the company's aircraft.

Helicopter Crash Attorneys 

Attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman are experienced at representing victims of air accidents, including those involving the Robinson Helicopter Company. Among cases we have handled are a January 4, 2017 crash in which a Robinson R22 crashed into the waters at the Port of Los Angeles, and a June 23, 2016 crash in Arizona.

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