Information on U.S. Army helicopter OH-6A tail number 67-16086
The Army purchased this helicopter 0668
Total flight hours at this point: 00001228
Incident number: 691120171ACD Accident case number: 691120171 Total loss or fatality Accident
Unit: C/7/17 CAV
UTM grid coordinates: BS774131
Number killed in accident = 1 . . Injured = 1 . . Passengers = 1
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Army Aviation Safety Center database. Also: OPERA, Bob Mitchell (Operations Report. )
Summary: Crashed into tall trees after experiencing a tail rotor failure that may have resulted from enemy SA fire. Burned and exploded.
Loss to Inventory and Helicopter was not recovered
P WO1 EXNER FRED ANTONY III KIA
CP W2 GB NELSON
Aircraft departed LZ Two Bits approximately 1300 hours and proceeded towards the assigned area of operation, which is at approximate coordinates BS7713. The Troop Commander, MAJ Tobin, was flying the C&C ship. He ordered the aircraft with him to proceed to general location of LZ Tape. WO Exner at this time was following the lead gunship, piloted by WO1 Cook. Subject aircraft crossed the mountainous terrain in a northerly direction passing to the east of LZ Stringer. C&C then informed all aircraft to proceed further to the north due to the numerous friendly units operating around LZ Stinger. WO1 Exner flew up the north-south ridge located to the northeast. Flying north for approximately 2000 meters at which time subject aircraft turned northwest entering a large raving to the east of LZ Tape. Subject aircraft at this point was flying approximately 20-30 feet above the trees at an airspeed of 80 knots. Subject aircraft made several large orbits at high airspeed approximately 30 feet above the tree top level. The winds were 20 knots gusting to 40 knots. According to Nelson, the winds were very gusty and very unpredictable. WO1 Exner called CW2 Nelson's attention several times to the loss of left pedal, running out of both on several occasions. Subject aircraft was headed in a northerly direction, flying at the five o'clock position of the lead aircraft, approximately 200 meters out. Flying in a northerly direction at approximately 1309 hours CW2 Nelson heard a loud but distinct noise, not unlike an AK-47. On intercom CW2 Nelson asked WO1 Exner, "What was that?" WO1 Exner replied with, "Tail rotor failure." At the instant the noise was heard, the aircraft crabbed to the right approximately 60 degrees. WO1 Exner brought the ship back to approximately 20 degrees and continued in a shallow right turn. The aircraft at this time was heading in a southeasterly direction still well clear of the trees. CW2 Nelson keyed the floor mike at ask WO1 Exner his intentions. The turn continued toward the higher ground. WO1 Exner told CW2 Nelson to get off the mike. WO1 Exner then make a blanket call and said "Tail rotor failure, I'm going in." Subject aircraft began to spin violently to the right. WO1 Mitchell flying the lead LOH heard the distress call and immediately turned his aircraft around just in time to see subject aircraft striking the tops of the trees. It was spinning rapidly to the right with a nose low attitude according to WO1 Mitchell. It was at this time that MAJ Tobin flew further up the valley and gained altitude and called for the Aero Rifle Platoon. WO1 Mitchell flew to the crash site and hovered over the area for three to four minutes. He could see no movement around the area. At this time a fire started in the cockpit of the aircraft and he was forced to move away because of the exploding ammunition. It was at this time that the fuel cell caught fire and exploded, throwing out a large cloud of dark smoke. When the medivac arrived at the crash site CW2 Nelson was lying next to the tail boom. A jungle penetrator was dropped to within six feet of CW2 Nelson but he made no attempt to reach it. It was then raised and the medic rode it down through the 150 feet trees to the patient. The medic then helped CW2 Nelson into the rig and they both were taken aboard the hovering aircraft. WO1 Exner was pinned down by the seat and frame structures which were directly behind and above the pilot's seat. The armor plating was lying on top of WO1 Exner's body and all the seat belts were away.
I was the Scout team leader that day. Fred, an experienced LOH pilot, was flying my wing. He had the additional duty of being the troop Supply Officer. A CW2 Gary B. Nelson had been a Cobra pilot for some time and was in the process of seeing if he wanted to be a Scout. He flew as Fred's Observer and it was his first day in a LOH. That day the AO was the northern part of the An Lao over from LZ English. We were working from the higher ground down toward the valley floor. Fred called that he had just experienced a tail rotor failure. I quickly turned and saw him going into the trees. He must have had rather low forward speed at the time because he should have been able to fly out of the area even without a tail rotor. Just after the LOH hit the trees, the blades folded up and quit turning. The right front side of the ship hit the ground. I was right over the crash site in seconds and even though this area was triple canopy jungle, I could clearly see the wreck. There was no movement around the wreck and initially there was no fire. We called for the Blues even though the nearest LZ was some distance away. After about ten minutes the wreck started to burn and soon the ammo started cooking off. We had to back off because of the exploding ammo. About this time we saw a pen flare come up through the trees. We dismissed it as part of the burning ammo. A couple minutes later when we saw another pen flare, we knew someone was alive down there. We called for a medevac with a jungle penetrator. It arrived and even though the ammo was still exploding, they pulled right up to the crash site and put the penetrator down. CW2 Nelson was so badly wounded that he was unable to get himself into the contraption; so the medic went down. He was able to complete the evacuation. No one else was hurt during that extraction. Later the Blues did get in and retrieved Fred's body. Years later I saw Nelson again in Germany flying Cobras; so I am glad to say that he recovered from his wounds. Submitted by Bob Mitchell to Mike Law in 1997.
This record was last updated on 01/07/2000
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Date posted on this site: 05/26/2019
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