Norway’s accident investigations board has delivered its final report on a near-fatal helicopter crash that occurred in Bergen in May 2017. It has concluded that wealthy Hong Kong businessman Charles Chan was flying the helicopter himself, and had little experience when he attempted to land it on his luxury yacht anchored offshore.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported this week Chan was at the controls, not experienced helicopter pilot Quentin Smith (known as “Captain Q”) who was also on board along with Chinese lawyer David Tang. While Chan and Smith escaped serious injury, Tang was declared clinically dead at one point but rescued from the wreckage by Smith and, later, local emergency crews from Norway’s Redningsetaten. who had rushed to the scene. Tang later made a large donation to the emergency service, for helping to save his life.
The crash had initially been blamed on a piece of canvas that hadn’t been fastened properly on the yacht and blew into the helicopter’s rotary blades during landing. Now the state report reveals that Chan was the pilot, and that he had hovered above the deck of his yacht for around 15 seconds before landing.
“The fact that the pilot (Chan) had such limited experience resulted in him using more time to hover over the (yacht’s) helicopter deck, which in turn led to the canvas loosening from around the (yacht’s) fuel tank,” according to the report.
It was reportedly the first time Chan had attempted to land on his yacht Bacarella. Kåre Halvorsen, director of the aviation division of the investigations board (Statens havarikommisjon), said it was “impossible” to say whether the canvas would have loosened if a more experienced pilot had been at the controls. “But by being more restrictive about risk, perhaps the least experienced pilot would have landed the helicopter, Halvorsen told NRK.
Smith, who served as “chief” on board the helicopter that day, had said shortly after the crash that all three men on board were pilots with “a passion” for flying. They had flown the helicopter from London to Scotland and then across the North Sea to Bergen, where they intended to spend 1o days on the yacht touring Norway’s scenic West Coast and fjords.
Smith was credited by accident investigators for ensuring that the helicopter did not sink when it hit the water. He also dove back into the water to rescue Chan, who was still inside the helicopter, and Tang, who was in the backseat.
No technical problems were discovered on the helicopter. The yacht’s crew was criticized for failing to launch lifeboats and that fire extinguishers weren’t available on the helicopter deck.