NTSB: iPad may have led to helicopter crash that killed pilot, co-pilot

A still image from a witness' video showing the helicopter moments before it crashed. (Provided by NTSB)

The National Safety Transportation Board said an iPad may have caused a helicopter to crash last year, killing a pilot and his co-pilot in Idaho. 

In July 2022, 41-year-old Thomas Hayes of Post Falls, Idaho, and 36-year-old Jared Bird of Anchorage, Alaska were killed as they flew a CH-47D Series "Chinook" helicopter to help fight the Moose Fire, burning just north of Salmon, Idaho. 

The crash site was found in the Salmon River near the town. 

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A witness on the ground recorded video, showing the helicopter setting up to dip the water bucket into the river before it crashed.


A photo of the crash site. (Credit: NTSB)

According to the NTSB report, investigators found an iPad in the river near the cockpit. 

It's believed the iPad somehow fell in the cockpit and may have gotten jammed underneath the pilot's pedal. The damaged iPad had distinct markings that suggested it was situated near the pedals when the chopper crashed. Investigators tested their theory using the damaged iPad and a similar helicopter. 


The NTSB released this photo showing investigators placing the damaged iPad in a similar helicopter to determine the cause of the crash. (Credit: NTSB)

"What the investigative team found, at the end of the day, was most likely that the iPad that was in the cockpit, fell in between the controls, the control pedals, the yaw control pedals, and ultimately played a part in the accident," Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB’s Alaska Regional office told Alaska News Source. "Again, keep in mind, this is not the final report, this is not probable cause, but we wanted to get the word out now to keep that condition from happening."

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Having iPads in the cockpit is not uncommon, and Johsnon told the outlet the NTSB wants to raise awareness to prevent future, similar accidents. 

The pilots were employees of the Anchorage-based ROTAK. FOX Television Stations has reached out to the company for comment. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.