Preliminary investigation into deadly helicopter crash completed

Niël Terblanché

Speculation surrounding the fatal helicopter crash that led to the death of 54-year-old Jaques Jacobs and 29-year-old Dirk von Weidts last month was put to rest when the Directorate of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigations released a preliminary report on what the actual cause of the accident was.

According to the report, the helicopter that crashed on 17 July 2023 underwent two test flights before the final test flight which ended in tragedy.

During the final test flight, the pilot was supposed to check rotor balancing. The pilot was also supposed to perform auto-rotation procedures.

“During the auto-rotation procedure, one of the main rotor blades hit the tail boom causing it to detach from the main fuselage. This caused the helicopter to spiral out of control and it hit the ground at a very high velocity,” the report states.

According to the report the tail boom was found 158 metres from the main fuselage and the part of the main rotor that hit the tail boom was flung 55 metres from the main wreckage.

The report further stated that the accident was not survivable because the impact forces exceeded the tolerances of the human body.

The Robinson R44 helicopter was brought into Namibia by the owner, Golden Game CC on a trailer during February 2022.

The investigation found that the aircraft was never registered in Namibia and that it did not have a valid Certificate of Airworthiness in Namibia or South Africa.

Although the aircraft arrived in Namibia in February 2022 the Aviation Maintenance Organisation only applied for the registration V5-HGG in June 2023.

The regulator, the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCCA), did reserve the registration but the owner of the helicopter did not proceed with the actual registration process.

At the time of the accident, the helicopter was still registered in South Africa under the registration ZS-HLG.

The investigation also found that no test flight permit was issued to the aircraft.

An engine from another R44 was installed in it while it was in Namibia. The engine belonged to a Namibian-registered helicopter with registration number V5-HJL.

About two weeks after the fatal crash, the 34-year-old Antje Nauhaus was arrested by the Namibian Police.

Nauhaus, who is still in custody, faces charges of forgery, fraud, utterance and various charges related to the violation of the Namibian Civil Aviation Act. She was also charged with culpable homicide.

Up until her arrest she was an employee of Namibia Base Aviation, and she stands accused of unlawfully and intentionally providing a fake, forged, and altered certificate of aircraft registration in Namibia and a forged flight test permit for the ill-fated helicopter.

More details about the criminal investigation will be revealed in the final report of the Directorate of Aircraft Accident and Incident Investigation.

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