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Only on 13: Accident report reveals lack of maintenance to blame for Metro Fire helicopter door falling off mid-air

Accident report reveals cause of Metro Fire mid-air malfunction
Accident report reveals cause of Metro Fire mid-air malfunction 02:15

SACRAMENTO — More than two months after the door of a helicopter flew off mid-air, Sacramento Metro Fire helicopter flights remain suspended.

Metro Fire says it's helicopters are a valuable resource to help protect the public.

"It's one of our paramount programs for our agency," said Battalion Chief Parker Wilbourn.

They are used for wildland firefighting along with search and rescue missions, including during last winter's flooding.

"That aircraft was out actually pulling people off of hoods of cars, making multiple rescues," Wilbourn said.

However, Metro Fire's fleet of four Huey helicopters is grounded following an in-flight emergency in October.

The crew was flying a training mission when the sliding cabin door flew off the aircraft and went crashing down more than a thousand feet onto the roof of a Granite Bay home.

There were no injuries in the air or on the ground.

"They were very fortunate that did not go into the tail rotor because it could have spun out of control very quickly and had several fatalities," said Lt. Col. Keith Cianfrani, a helicopter instructor and retired Army pilot.

CBS13 has obtained a copy of the accident investigation report through the Public Records Act. Post-accident photos show the track, rollers, and cotter pin that hold the door in place had severe wear and tear.

"After years and years and hours and hours, there's a lot of stress that's put on those tracks," Cianfrani said.

Cianfrani has reviewed the accident and says the lack of proper maintenance is to blame.

"It's not just one event that is causing it," he said. "It's several events. We call it the domino effect."

Metro Fire says it's following post-accident recommendations to mandate more inspections and modernize aircraft parts.

"They've retrofitted all of the aircraft," Wilbourn said.

They are hoping to have the helicopters back in service in the coming days.

"These aircraft are 100% safe," Wilbourn said. "This is what we would call a freak incident, and going forward, it won't happen again."

Metro Fire estimates it will cost up to $20,000 to retrofit and repair the helicopters. They also worked with the Granite Bay homeowner to help fix the roof.

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