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Officials cite pilot error in 2019 helicopter crash that killed 3 LSU grads

3 years 3 weeks 6 days ago Friday, May 28 2021 May 28, 2021 May 28, 2021 7:06 AM May 28, 2021 in News
Source: The Advocate

In 2019, seven people were killed in a helicopter crash while vacationing in the Bahamas and according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, the crash was due to pilot error. 

 The Advocate reports that according to a recent decision from the Safety Board, when pilot David Jude and co-pilot Geoff Painter made the decision “to take off over water in dark night conditions” it doomed all six aboard the Agusta AW139 helicopter. 

Jude, Painter, Clark, Cline, his daughter Kameron Cline, Brittany Searson and Delaney Wykle were on the helicopter when it crashed off the coast of Big Grand Cay, and all seven were killed. 

In a final report on the crash, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said the pilots became disoriented, inadvertently flew down toward the water and inadequately responded to warnings that they were on the way to crashing.

Investigators say Jude and Painter succumbed to pressured to fly despite dangerous conditions because the helicopter’s owner, West Virginia coal magnate Chris Cline, told them he needed to fly his daughter and her friend, Mount Carmel volleyball star Jillian Clark, both ill, from his private island to a hospital in Florida.

According to The Advocate, 22-year-old Clark was an aspiring physician from Kenner and she took a celebratory trip to Big Grand Cay in honor of Independence Day and of her graduation. Clark traveled with her fellow Phi Mu Sorority sisters Cline, 22, and Searson, 21.

Additionally, the owner of Big Grand Cay, Chris Cline, was celebrating his 61st birthday and the Cline's were joined by Kameron's childhood friend, 22-year-old Wykle.

Unfortunately, Clark and Kameron Cline fell ill from an undisclosed sickness that has never been publicly disclosed and Chris Cline asked Jude, his employee, and Painter to fly all five of them to Fort Lauderdale to see doctors.

According to the Advocate, Jude and Painter both agreed to make the trip even though neither had traversed the route at night, the safety board's report said.

“The urgency of the mission and the direct communication from the helicopter owner likely created external pressure on the flight crew, which can affect decision-making and create a sense of pressure to complete a flight,” the report said.

Shortly after takeoff, the pilots lost their bearings and thought they were flying parallel to the water when they were actually angling the helicopter’s nose toward the surface, according to the report.

The helicopter’s instruments and alarms warned that they were losing altitude, but the pilots were unable to avoid crashing into the water, the report explained.

The loss of the seven individuals aboard the helicopter devastated communities in Louisiana, Florida and West Virginia.

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