TSB releases report on fatal 2017 Hydro One chopper crash; Long Sault man was among victims

In this photo provided by the Transportation Safety Board, four people including a man from Long Sault, Ont. died when this Hydro One helicopter crashed near Tweed, Ont. in December 2017. The TSB has made a recommendation about seat belt use on the helicopters. (TSB via Newswatch Group)

TWEED, Ont. – The Transportation Safety Board has released recommendations about seat belt use after a Hydro One helicopter crash in December 2017, which killed four people including a man from Long Sault.

During a news conference on Wednesday (Oct. 30), the TSB called on Transport Canada to make clearer regulations for the use of the seat belt lap and shoulder straps on the aircraft.

Current wording suggests it can be either the lap or lap strap with the shoulder harness but doesn’t clearly express that both need to be used at the same time.

The investigation revealed that the occupants were ejected from the single-engine AS350 chopper as it spun out of the control after a tool bag struck and demolished the rear rotor. The crew was working on a transmission tower north of Tweed, Ont.

Three of the passengers “received fatal injuries from contact with the ground or the helicopter itself” while the pilot – wearing a seat belt and shoulder harness – died when the helicopter hit the ground.

The investigation revealed that two of the three seat belts were not buckled and the shoulder harnesses were rolled up and taped with electrical tape, making them unusable.

The TSB believes the seat belts were not used, either because workers felt the risk was low for a short flight back to the staging area or they had problems putting them on over winter gear.

The four victims included 26-year-old Darcy Jansen of Long Sault – a power line technician who had been working with Hydro One since August 2013.

The other victims were helicopter pilot James Baragar, 39, from the Orillia area, power line technician Jeff Howes, 26, from Bath, Ont. and power line technician Kyle Shorrock, 27, from Inverary, Ont.

Hydro One has already taken a number of corrective measures, such as suspending operations of the external platform where the tool bag was fastened and is completing a review of its operations.