Oil platform in Gulf of Mexico 10 miles from Southwest Pass, Louisiana
Oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico 10 miles from Southwest Pass, Louisiana, where Bell 407 helicopter crash occurred. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard)

Operator Loses Second Helicopter in Two Weeks

The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for survivors of a Bell 407 crash on December 29.

The U.S. Coast Guard has called off the search for survivors of a Rotorcraft Leasing Bell 407 helicopter with four aboard that crashed on December 29. The crash occurred shortly after the aircraft departed a Gulf of Mexico oil platform at 8:40 a.m. local time 10 miles from Southwest Pass, Louisiana. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk dispatched to the scene found aircraft debris, but no survivors, after searching an area spanning 180 square miles for eight hours.

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed that it has begun an investigation into the accident. Weather conditions do not appear to have been a factor, according to authorities. 

This was the second crash for the operator in two weeks, its second fatal in 2022, and its third in the Gulf of Mexico since October. On December 15, a Rotorcraft Leasing Bell 206L-4 with three aboard crashed while taking off from a platform 35 miles south of Terrebonne Bay, Louisiana. In that accident, one of the helicopter’s skids caught under the helipad’s perimeter railing, and the aircraft fell into the water below. All three occupants were hoisted to safety by a Coast Guard MH-60 dispatched from Air Station New Orleans. One sustained back injuries. 

On October 26, a Westwind Helicopters Bell 407 with three aboard crashed into the Gulf 25 miles south of Morgan City, Louisiana, after the pilot apparently experienced an in-flight medical emergency and told his front-seat passenger he “was not going to make it” and then slumped over the controls. The front-seat passenger then attempted to gain control of the helicopter prior to the water impact. After several hours, both passengers were rescued with serious injuries, but the pilot died. 

The December 29 crash appears to be the second fatal accident in the Gulf region for Rotorcraft Leasing this year. Another of the company’s Bell 407s crashed on Jan. 14, 2022,  near Houma, Louisiana, killing both occupants. A witness to the accident said the helicopter appeared to dive nose-down into terrain. To date, investigators of that accident have not discovered any mechanical or structural failure that would account for that crash.