Deadly 2011 Helicopter Crash In Missouri: Did Texting While Flying Cause Crash?

By Philip Ross on April 9, 2013 11:11 AM EDT

texting
Texting while flying may have led to the deadly helicopter crash in Missouri back in 2011. (Photo: Creative Commons)

New developments in the deadly helicopter crash in Missouri two years ago have come to light, as the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has recovered evidence that the pilot of the helicopter was texting while flying. This information has lead the NTSB to rule that texting played a role in the deadly helicopter crash that killed four. This is the first time that texting while flying has been implicated in a fatal commercial aviation accident, Bloomberg reports.

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The NTSB said that the crash in Aug. 2011 in Mosby, Missouri, which killed four people - a patient, two medical attendants and the pilot - was caused by low fuel. But the pilot was also texting during the flight, leading the NTSB to believe that he was distracted. The pilot sent and received seven text messages total.  

The helicopter, an emergency medical helicopter, belonged to Air Methods Corp., the largest publicly owned emergency medical services helicopter operator in the U.S. The pilot was 34-year-old James Freudenbert. Freudenbert received four text messages during the flight, three of which were from a coworker regarding that night's dinner plans, and sent three others.

The NTSB reports that the pilot forgot to refuel the helicopter before taking off for a hospital in Bethany, Missouri, to pick up the patient. Once landing at the hospital, records show that Freudenbert talked about refueling with one of the company dispatchers. Freudenbert said he had 45 minutes left of fuel, enough, he thought, to make it to their next destination. The helicopter ran out of fuel, however, 30 minutes after takeoff from the hospital.

While it has not been determined that the pilot's texting while flying directly lead to the helicopter plunging into a field, it is thought that the pilot's distractions, including a poor night's sleep which he divulged in one of the text messages, may have been the reason he neglected to refuel the helicopter.

Unlike texting while driving, which involves the distracted driver taking his eyes off the road and causing an accident, there is not a direct correlation between texting while flying and the occurrence of an accident. John Lee, an engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin, told Bloomberg in an interview that distractions during flight are like an office worker who gets a phone call and neglects to send an e-mail - it's the lapse in attention that causes the mistake.

This month happens to be Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Texting while driving makes a crash 23 times more likely, with five seconds of driving time being the minimum amount of time your attention is off the road. Thirteen percent of drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 involved in car accidents admit they were texting or talking on the phone at the time of the crash.

You can pledge to drive cell free and help keep roads safer.

Read more:

Bodies Found On Iditarod Route From Alaskan Plane Crash: Cessna 182 Pilot Did Not File Flight Plan

19 Dead In Balloon Crash In Egypt: What Caused The Hot Air Explosion? [PHOTOS] [VIDEO]

5 Americans Die In Peru Helicopter Crash: Crew Was On Oil Exploration Operation [VIDEO]

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