Helicopter's Voice Recorder Suffered Heat Damage

WEAVERVILLE, Calif. (AP) - Officials investigating a deadly helicopter crash at a Northern California wildfire said Friday that the cockpit voice recorder suffered heat damage that is complicating efforts to extract information from the device.

Nine men were killed and four were injured when the firefighting aircraft went down north of Weaverville in the remote Shasta-Trinity National Forest last week.

The recorder will be sent next week to England, where the device's British manufacturer, Penny and Giles, will help investigators try to recover recordings that could shed light on what caused the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its preliminary report on the Aug. 5 accident.

Firefighters who witnessed the accident told investigators the helicopter had lifted off more slowly than usual before it hit trees and crashed more than 100 yards from where it had taken off.

A team of investigators is in Portland, Ore., this week to examine the chopper's two engines, which were taken there after being recovered from the wreckage, the agency said.

The Sikorsky S-61N, which was manufactured in 1964, had refueled
just before the crash. Investigators also plan to test fuel samples
from the truck that had serviced the helicopter.

Records show that the aircraft's captain had about 20,000 hours
of total flight time and the first officer had 3,000 hours of civilian flight time, according to the NTSB's report.

The board plans to issue its final report on the crash in about a year.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-15-08 1402EDT

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