LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- The National Traffic Safety Board released its preliminary report regarding the fatal helicopter crash at Red Rock Canyon on Oct. 23.
A Robinson R44 II Raven helicopter crashed near the visitor center inside Red Rock Canyon just before 4 p.m. The helicopter was owned by Binner Enterprises, LLC, a flight school based out of Henderson.
Company owner Matt Binner said both people involved in the crash were men and that the pilot rented the helicopter from him. The pilot, later identified as Scott Socquet, 53, by the Clark County coroner, was experienced and had rented from Binner for about three years.
Binner said the flight on Oct. 23 was meant to be a one-hour leisure flight.
The passenger inside the helicopter was later identified by the coroner as Howard Jameson, 27, of New Fairfield, Conn. Socquet and Jameson were taken to University Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.
Socquet died shortly thereafter, followed later by Jameson. They died of blunt-force trauma as a result of the accident, the coroner's office said.
According to NTSB's report, Socquet had contacted Airworks Las Vegas, the fixed base operator (FBO), in the early afternoon before the accident. He asked office personnel if the R44 would be available to rent that afternoon.
One of the schedulers said that the helicopter was undergoing maintenance and Socquet replied he would stop by the office anyway to see if the maintenance was done, and to put money on his account, the report said.
Socquet and Jameson arrived about 10 minutes later, and Socquet asked why the helicopter was undergoing maintenance. According to the report, office personnel told him that an earlier flight had been canceled because the pilot found sediment in the tanks.
Socquet said he was happy to wait and within 20 minutes, the certified flight instructor (CFI) that had canceled the earlier flight said the maintenance was done and that the helicopter was ready to fly, the report said.
The plan, according to the report, was to have Socquet return the helicopter to the FBO in time for a 7 p.m. flight tour.
According to NTSB's report, the R44 had been fueled twice the day before the crash. It was scheduled to fly with the same CFI the morning and afternoon of the crash. A fueler did the normal procedure of draining fuel from a truck and he noted that it was clean.
The pilot-undergoing instruction (PUI) who was scheduled to fly with the CFI the morning of the crash told investigators after getting fuel, he began the preflight checks with the CFI watching behind him, the report said.
While testing the fuel, the PUI noted the fuel from the auxiliary tank appeared "dirty with black and grey specs floating," similar to sand. After taking two more samples with the same results, the CFI volunteered to clean the jar, thinking it was dirty.
According to the report, the CFI informed the mechanic to address the issue. The mechanic was not able to flush the fuel tanks. The CFI told the PUI that the mechanic had not been able work on the helicopter and the PUI agreed to cancel their afternoon flight.
The CFI began "sumping" the tanks to make sure they were clean before Socquet and Jameson's scheduled flight.
NTSB reported there was no evidence of catastrophic failure with the engine.
Preliminary radar track data indicated that after the helicopter left, it headed west-southwest toward the Red Rock Retention Basin. According to the NTSB report, Socquet turned the helicopter 360-degrees over Blue Diamond Road.
Afterward, Socquet directed the helicopter around Calico Basin, climbing up to 400 feet above ground level. Socquet then made a left turn and several maneuvers over Red Rock Canyon. Socquet lined the helicopter above Blue Diamond Road and headed north-northeast.
According to the report, the last radar hit was around 3:55 p.m., about one nautical mile from the crash site. The last 30 seconds of the track showed the helicopter was following Blue Diamond Road with an air speed of 120 to 100 kts with an altitude of 500 to 700 feet above ground.
A witness who saw the crash told investigators he saw the helicopter at an estimated 100 to 200 feet "in a nose up attitude" above ground level, and in a steep decent angle before crashing, the report said. The witness told NTSB the helicopter broke apart on impact.
The wreckage from the crash was found distributed over a ravine, over a 200 foot distance, the report said. The crash was located four to five feet below the pavement.
Investigators at the scene of the crash found a bowl that was full of a liquid that smelled akin to fuel, but was orange-yellow in color and contained some debris that had the consistency of gelatin, the report said. Investigators tested the fuel system and fuel ran from the main tank through the injector lines.
All the fuel screens were clean from debris, according to the report.