A helicopter crash killed eight bystanders at the St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church during a three day Labor Day event in 1978. The accident occurred when a Hughes 269C helicopter crashed into the crowd, killing eight and injuring nineteen during a ping-pong ball drop.
The helicopter was piloted by Pam Nelson of Nelson Aviation and was contracted by the church on behalf of Leo E. Allison, the church janitor and event organizer. Both Leo Allison and his 15-year-old daughter were also in the helicopter during the crash, but were not seriously injured. Pam Nelson also survived the crash.
Pam Nelson claimed the the engine of the helicopter shut off while hovering above the crowd, although a later investigation and test from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported that the engine did not malfunction. Nelson was not held criminally liable for the accident, but was forced to resign her pilot’s license.
The FAA also discovered in their investigation that Nelson Aviation canceled a new engine purchase for the helicopter only weeks before it had crash. Furthermore, Nelson Aviation failed to conduct a full engine inspection and overhaul at 1,000 hours flight time and even knew of “excessive wear” on the throttle linkage, which would be the main cause of the engine malfunction.
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