BALLENGER THOMAS E

WO1 Thomas E. Ballenger was a VHPA member who died after his tour in Vietnam on 01/04/2009 at the age of 63.2 from A/C accident
Eufaula, AL
Flight Class 67-11
Date of Birth 10/12/1945
Served in the U.S. Army
Served in Vietnam with DIV ARTY 1 INF in 67-68, 73 SAC in 70-71
Call signs in Vietnam CUSTER 21, UP TIGHT 29
This information was provided by Ron Cooper, Pat Richardson

More detail on this person: TERREBONNE, La. -- Eight people are dead after a helicopter crashed Sunday into a marshy area in the lower southwest portion of Terrebonne Parish, according to Coast Guard officer Jaclyn Young.

There were nine people on board a PHI, Inc. helicopter at the time of the crash, which happened around 3:30 p.m. near Bayou Penchant. One of them was transported to a nearby hospital, while the Coast Guard put on a search for the ninth person. That person was found dead later, raising the death toll in the accident to eight.

PHI Inc. identified those killed in the crash as Allen Boudreaux, of Ama, La.; Andrew Moricio and Ezequiel Cantu of Morgan City, La.; Randy Tarpley of Jonesville, La.; Charles W. Nelson of Pensacola, Fla.; Thomas E. Ballenger of Eufaula, Ala.; and Vyarl W. Martin of Hurst, Texas.

There was conflicting information on the name of the eighth victim, a Bridge City man. PHI said the injured man was Steven Yeltin of Floresville, Texas.

"There is no way to describe the pain of this terrible, terrible tragedy," said Mike Moreno, CEO of the Moreno Group, who, along with Dynamic Industries, employed five of the victims. "This is devastating news for the entire Dynamic community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family members of these dedicated employees."

Richard Ravinelli, Director of Human Resources for PHI, said the chopper had just taken off from the PHI operating base in Amelia and was heading to an offshore oil platform at the time of the crash. Barbara Bryant's said her son was among those killed in the accident.

"He has worked since he was young," Bryant said. "He just spent 3 months offshore, just because he wanted to save up enough money for a down payment on his own house, and he's been living with me to save his money to do that."

Bryant says her son has worked on oil rigs for more than three years, but could never get used to boarding helicopters -- the most common way crews get out to the rigs.

"I'm thinking about him being in those marshes out there," Bryant said. "He didn't want to fly anyway. He just took the water survival course for this company for shell the week before Christmas, and said how terrified he was he did that, so that's on my mind.. or that he's out there.

"He didn't make it."

The medevacted passenger, who is a 28-year-old man, is listed as in critical condition and is awaiting to be transferred to Oschner Medical Center from the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma. Officials said that because of inclement weather, they are trying to transfer him by ground ambulance.

The U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Virginia originally picked up the distress signal from the helicopter and alerted the Coast Guard station in New Orleans, Young said. Shortly thereafter the Coast Guard launched a HH-65C rescue helicopter from New Orleans to the scene of the accident.

Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, told the Associated Press that he believes the plane crashed about seven minutes after it took off. Lopatkiewicz said that while the crew reported no problems before the helicopter went down, there were scattered clouds, and visibility was 10 miles at the time of the crash.

According to their website, PHI, Inc. is a helicopter services company that provides transportation to offshore oil and gas, onshore mining, and medical and technical services industries. They are independently owned.

Last year there was another fatal accident involving a PHI helicopter in Texas. In June, three PHI crew members and a patient they were transporting died after their helicopter crashed on a private ranch near Huntsville.

The Terrebonne Sheriff's Office and Airforce Rescue Coordination Center assisted in the investigation

GIBSON, La. _ Authorities searched a southern Louisiana marsh by boat Monday for clues that might determine what caused a helicopter crash that killed eight people bound for an offshore oil platform.

The helicopter, operated by PHI Inc., crashed Sunday afternoon shortly after taking off, said Richard Rovinelli, a company spokesman. Two pilots and seven passengers were aboard when the helicopter went down in rural Terrebonne Parish, about 100 miles southwest of New Orleans. The passengers worked for two Shell Oil Co. contractors and the company said they were on their way to its Gulf of Mexico platform.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Jaclyn Young said the lone survivor was transported to a medical facility in suburban New Orleans, and was critical condition Sunday night. There was no immediate update on condition available Monday.

Ted Lopatkiewicz, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the helicopter is believed to have crashed about seven minutes after it took off at 3:02 p.m. EDT. Lopatkiewicz said there were scattered clouds and visibility was 10 miles at the time of the crash, and the crew reported no problems before the helicopter went down.

A short time after the crash, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center in Panama City, Fla., received an electronic distress signal from the helicopter with the aircraft's tail number and GPS coordinates, center spokesman Master Sgt. Jeffery Harlan said. The center contacted PHI, which confirmed it couldn't locate the chopper, Harlan said.

The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76C, would have had a voice recorder aboard and possibly a flight data recorder, Lopatkiewicz said. NTSB investigators were expected to arrive later Monday at the crash site, to work with local authorities in the search for the recorder and other material. An NTSB investigator also was headed for PHI's offices to go through maintenance and crew records.

Lafayette-based PHI is a primary provider of helicopter services to oil and gas platforms that dot the coast of Louisiana. It also flies medical helicopters.

Workers typically are flown to and from their worksites from coastal flight bases.

Young said the Coast Guard assisted Terrebonne Parish sheriff's deputies in recovering the dead and rescuing the survivor from the marshy Bayou Penchant area. A sheriff's office spokesman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Monday.

PHI identified the dead as Allen Boudreaux, of Ama, La.; Andrew Moricio and Ezequiel Cantu of Morgan City, La.; Randy Tarpley of Jonesville, La.; Jorey A. Rivero, of Bridge City, La.; Charles W. Nelson of Pensacola, Fla.; Thomas E. Ballenger of Eufaula, Ala. and Vyarl W. Martin of Hurst, Texas.

The injured man was Steven Yeltin of Floresville, Texas.

Ballenger and Marin were PHI pilots. Bourdreaux, Moricio, Cantu and Tarpley worked for Dynamic Industries of New Iberia, La. The other passengers worked for MMR Offshore Services, Inc., part of Baton Rouge-based MMR Group Inc.

In June, a PHI Air Medical helicopter crashed in Texas, killing four people. The accident in the Sam Houston National Forest killed the pilot, paramedic, nurse and a patient who was being transported from Huntsville to Houston.

That crew agreed to transport the patient after another helicopter company abandoned the mission, saying cloud cover was too low, making visibility poor in the early morning darkness.

This information was last updated 05/18/2016

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Date posted on this site: 09/21/2017


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