Federal investigators share preliminary findings on Drexel Hill helicopter crash

The flight medic aboard an ill-fated helicopter that crashed in Drexel Hill told federal investigators that he and the flight nurse were "pinned to the ceiling" when a loud bang caused the chopper to barrel roll as it plummeted from the sky. 

The National Transportation Safety Board on Monday released a report that detailed the moments a Eurocopter EC-135 with four aboard fell from the sky in suburban Philadelphia while on route to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 

The four-page report contains an onboard account from the flight medic and several witnesses on the ground. It details the track that the chopper took beginning around 12:50 when the helicopter that was cruising at 3,500 feet suddenly started to lose altitude. 

A witness, described in the report as an "aviation enthusiast" who was "familiar with the many helicopters flying to and from area hospitals," told federal investigators that he spotted the helicopter "in a nose-down attitude, far less than 1,000 ft above the ground, [and] rotating around its longitudinal axis."

The chopper came to a crash landing on Burmont Road and Bloomfield Avenue near the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church. Miraculously, no one on the ground was injured and there was limited property damage. 

The pilot, later identified as 52-year-old Danial Moore, suffered broken ribs, broken vertebrae, and a cracked sternum. The infant patient who was being flown to CHOP, along with the flight nurse and flight medic sustained no injuries. 

"I'm pretty sure that God was my co-pilot that day," Moore said in an interview on Good Day Philadelphia. Moore is an experienced pilot with 4,123 total hours of flight experience, including 185 hours behind the controls of a Eurocopter EC-135.

In the NTSB's report, the flight medic said they were about 10 minutes from landing and he and the flight nurse were out of their seats treating the patient when they encountered a loud bang. That's when the flight medic claims the helicopter banked sharply right and continued into a right roll.

"The medic said that the helicopter rolled inverted, perhaps multiple times, and that he and the nurse were "pinned to the ceiling" and internal communication was lost," the report read. The patient was secured during the in-flight emergency and when the chopper leveled, both crew members strapped into their seats to brace for landing. 

The helicopter first hit a 40-foot tall tree then came to a rest on its left side against a stone wall of the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church. The tail of the helicopter was separated at the cab and rested between the helicopter and the exterior of the church, the report said. 

Federal investigators said the crash left a 108-foot trail and that all major components of the chopper were accounted for at the crash site. The wreckage was taken to an aircraft recovery facility in Clayton, Delaware, for further examination.




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