The deadly helicopter crash that killed Montgomery Gentry singer Troy Gentry at a New Jersey Resort Friday, Sept. 8, was caused by engine failure, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in its preliminary report on the accident.
The NTSB report, obtained by TMZ, states that pilot James Evan Robinson reported over the airport UNICOM frequency that he was unable to control the helicopter’s RPM with throttle inputs. A controller on the ground told him to shut off the engine and attempt an autorotation, a maneuver that Mr. Robinson, who held both commercial and instructor helicopter pilot certificates, had performed several times in the past.
In that maneuver, the main rotor is still supposed to turn, even without power, gliding the aircraft to the ground. Mr. Robinson started the autorotation 950 feet above the ground. He reported he could “roll” the twistgrip but that there was no corresponding change in the engine’s RPM when he did.
The RPM “decayed” until Mr. Robinson could see the individual rotor blades. The helicopter then suddenly dropped from the sky, making a high-pitched whine as it fell, the report said.
The crash occurred at the end of a runway at the Flying W Airport & Resort in Medford, New Jersey. Another pilot who flies in the area told TMZ that he questions the decision to autorotate when there was a body of water nearby in which he could have crash-landed. The pilot told TMZ that putting a chopper in distress down in the water is often much safer than attempting an emergency landing on the ground.
The deadly crash occurred just hours before Mr. Gentry was scheduled to play at the Flying W with his bandmate Eddie Montgomery. Mr. Gentry initially survived the crash and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment but later died of his injuries. He was 50 years old.
Mr. Robinson, a recent transplant from Georgia, was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the NTSB report, the helicopter flight was purely for recreational purposes. Some reports say that other band members were going to ride later in the helicopter as well.