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Idaho National Guard releases preliminary details on deadly crash

Posted at 4:25 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 18:27:03-05

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho National Guard released their preliminary findings on a Black Hawk helicopter crash that killed three pilots on February 2.

Here is a timeline of the events that happened in the tragedy where Jesse Anderson, Matthew Peltzer and Geoff Laubhan lost their lives.

In this preliminary report, investigators did not find any mechanical issues with the helicopter.

"Although the weather was a significant factor the primary cause of the accident was the crew's inability to complete the emergency procedure for inadvertent IMC," said Col. Christopher Burt of the Idaho National Guard.

Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Conditions or IMC happens when pilots lose visual contact with the ground because of the weather and it's one of the most dangerous situations a pilot faces.

Lt. Col Nicole Washington used an analogy of a hurdler running on a track to explain what flying in inadvertent IMC conditions feels like.

“You know the track like the back of your hand and you know where all the obstacles and hurdles are, you are running full speed towards the last hurdle," said Washington. "Then the power goes out and it goes completely dark.”

At this moment Peltzer handed the controls over to Laubhan and they attempted to transition to using only the instruments inside the helicopter.

The crew attempted to increase their speed and their altitude because Washington told us hovering makes the aircraft more unstable, keep in mind they were also trying to do this while using night-vision goggles.

“The crew had only 14 seconds from the time the crew initiated Inadvertent IMC procedures to the time the aircraft impacted the ground," said Burt. "The crew initiated the procedure appropriately while maintaining excellent crew coordination, however, the crew was unsuccessfully able to establish the rate of climb that would allow the aircraft to clear the rising terrain and the ridgeline.”

The Idaho National Guard trains for these scenarios using simulators, but Washington told us it normally takes 20 to 40 seconds to make the transition during Inadvertent IMC.

The Idaho National Guard tells us the best way to prevent an accident is by avoiding Inadvertent IMC, but that can be hard too especially in search and rescue scenarios.

“That is one of the missions we are charged with so we do have some of our most experienced pilots on stand by for search and rescue," said Washington. "But as we know it never happens at an ideal time, it’s always in the middle of the night or during bad weather but our crews are fully prepared and ready to respond.”

The loss of these three pilots still hurts and they lost their lives flying a training mission so they could save others.

“On behalf of the entire national guard I sincerely thank everyone for the many thoughts prayers and generous support we have received," said Major General Michael Garshak of the Idaho National Guard. "It has been so helpful and has been truly appreciated.”

The City of Boise is considering a memorial to honor these heroes in Julia Davis Park, if the project moves forward the city plans on placing it off the Greenbelt by the Boise River.

The Idaho National Guard will continue their investigation into this deadly crash.