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Helicopter pilot dipped aircraft's nose to illustrate a coyote hunt moments before fiery crash that killed 2

A National Transportation Safety Board report released Wednesday provides details on the July 22, 2010 crash outside of Kingfisher
by Juliana Keeping Published: May 10, 2013

The sole survivor of a medical helicopter crash said the aircraft's pilot dipped the aircraft's nose to illustrate a coyote hunt moments before the chopper hit a tree, crashed in a field and burst into flames, killing the pilot and a nurse on board.

Flight nurse-paramedic Michael Eccard was flung from the aircraft and seriously injured during the July, 22, 2010, crash, which killed the pilot, Al Harrison, 56, and nurse Ryan Duke, 35, shortly after takeoff from Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. Details of Eccard's account of the incident were released in a National Transportation Safety Board report on Wednesday.

A toxicology report shows Harrison had painkillers such as hydrocodone in his bloodstream at the time of the crash, even though he reported he took no medications to the FAA.

Eccard provided investigators with a detailed handwritten account of the events eight days after the crash.

His report paints a picture of a typical night shift on a beautiful day in Oklahoma.

“Everyone seemed rested and ready to work,” he writes.

First flight

Eccard knew Harrison for four months and Duke for several years. While his experience flying with Harrison was limited to a few months and three missions, Eccard felt he was a “competent pilot,” he writes. Duke was a good friend, Eccard told The Oklahoman in a December 2010 interview.

The crew received a call to go to O'Keene, roughly 90 miles away, to pick up a patient. It was the first flight of the shift.

After takeoff at 7:13 p.m., Eccard saw the front left side door handle latch had come open. He left his seat to close the handle. As he sat back down, Eccard and the pilot started talking. Eccard hadn't had the chance to put his seat belt back on.

“Conversation began about another pilot flying on a coyote hunt,” Eccard writes.

Harrison made a statement “‘like this' — (with some laughter),” Eccard notes.

The aircraft had been in the sky roughly 10 minutes. Its nosed dipped and Eccard looked out the window. The helicopter was flying under power lines.

Harrison tried to pull the nose of the aircraft back up before it struck a tree, but the craft didn't respond, Eccard writes.

Eccard, who was wearing a helmet, wrote that he flew through the windscreen. He crawled away and called 911.

The NTSB report details the violent impact of the crash, which occurred at 7:25 p.m. in a grassy field a few miles southeast of Kingfisher.

Read the NTSB report

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by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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