Mon, Nov 23, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Cleaning helicopter accident kills two

HIGH VOLTAGE:Taipower said the aircraft might have come into contact with power lines, adding that this was the first fatal incident since it hired Emerald Pacific

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Firemen inspect the wreckage of an Emerald Pacific Airlines Bell 206B helicopter that crashed in New Taipei City’s Taishan District yesterday.

Photo: Huang Hsin-po, Taipei Times

A helicopter owned by Emerald Pacific Airlines (凌天航空) yesterday crashed while cleaning insulators on a Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) high-voltage electricity tower in New Taipei City’s Taishan District (泰山), killing two people on board.

The victims were identified as pilot Chen Hsiu-ming (陳秀明) and insulator cleaning technician Yu Hui-hsien (余惠賢). The Civil Aeronautics Administration said that Chen had accumulated 4,787 flight hours and held a valid certificate to operate helicopters.

Chen and Yu were sent to Taipei Hospital in the Sinjhuang District (新莊) and Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taoyuan respectively and were pronounced dead on arrival.

The administration said that the Bell 206B helicopter was one of two aircraft assigned to clean high-voltage electricity tower insulators.

The helicopter departed from New Taipei City’s Yingge District (鶯歌) at 7am and crashed at about 11am.

The administration said that it was informed of the accident at 11:23am by the National Rescue Command Center, adding that it then established an emergency response team and dispatched representatives to the site, along with aviation accident investigators from the Aviation Safety Council.

The airline has five helicopters of the same model, including the one destroyed in the accident. Emerald Pacific has temporarily suspended high-voltage power line insulator cleaning operations because of the accident.

Taipower yesterday said in a statement that the accident might have been caused by the helicopter coming into contact with high-voltage power lines.

The power company said that it was sorry for what had occurred, adding that it had sent representatives to meet with the families of the victims after the accident and promised to assist them in handling funeral arrangements and other relevant matters.

Taipower said it would cooperate with the council to quickly determine the cause of the accident and prevent similar accidents from occurring.

Insulators on power substations have to be cleaned regularly, because dust and salt buildup affects the transmission of electricity, Taipower said, adding that while most insulator cleaning work is done by hand, it requires Emerald Pacific’s services to clean the upper part of towers.

The helicopter was manufactured on March 31, 2001, and had been in operation for nearly 14 years and eight months.

Apart from weekly inspections, all helicopters nationwide are required to undergo annual airworthiness inspections.

The crashed helicopter was scheduled to undergo the annual inspection next month, the administration said.

Taipower said that it recruited Emerald Pacific in 1998 to clean insulators on top of its power stations, with the accident being the first fatal on-the-job incident in 17 years.

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