HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Aviation investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are interviewing witnesses and studying the crash site to try and determine what caused the fatal helicopter crash in the Desoto National Forest that killed two men and critically injured a third. But pinpointing the exact cause of the accident, could take up to a year or longer.
With smoke still rising from the prescribed burn area, aviation investigators arrived at the crash site around ten o'clock Tuesday morning. Following hours of initial investigation at the scene, a late afternoon news conference was held.
"It struck multiple trees actually. And actually a post crash fire ensued as well," said National Transportation Safety Board investigator, Stephen Stein.
He was asked if the pilot issued a distress call on the radio prior to the crash.
"No, no. From what I understand at this time, he was not talking to anybody. However, that's inconclusive," said Stein.
The pilot died from smoke inhalation; smoke from the wreckage, said the coroner.
"Neither one of the gentlemen that perished in that crash were able to get out of that aircraft.
And that's as far as I'm going to go with that," said Harrison County coroner, Gary Hargrove.
Though the NTSB will issue a preliminary report in just 10 days, pinpointing the exact cause could take a year or longer.
The investigation is thorough and methodical.
"Once the wreckage has been recovered, we will begin to investigate the man, the machine and the environment.
This includes the archived information, pilot information in particular, including any certificates or ratings that he held," said investigator, Stein.
Finding answers will take time. As will the healing from this tragic accident.
"This has been a real tragedy. And it's hit a lot of us really, right here," said Mario Rossilli, with the U.S. Forest Service, as he pointed to his heart. The NTSB will release its "preliminary findings" on the crash in about 10 days. However, investigators said the final report on what caused the accident, may not be available for a year or more.