FAA investigating Las Vegas police helicopter incident

The Federal Aviation Administration is probing a May 18 incident in which a Las Vegas police Huey rescue helicopter clipped a Red Rock Canyon wall with its main rotor blades.

All five on board for the training mission escaped injury and the pilot was able to land the aircraft safely but under what conditions is unclear until authorities close out the investigation.

First described as an "accident," FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said Tuesday officials have downgraded the mishap to an "incident" but it is still under investigation.

Kenitzer, a spokesman for the FAA's Northwest Mountain and Alaska regions, said agency officials won't comment until after the probe is wrapped up in about two weeks.

Sources say a strong wind gust pushed the Bell HH-1H helicopter into a canyon wall in the Spring Mountain range.

"The pilot landed safely on a road at the bottom of the mountain. None of the five people on board was injured," states an internal FAA email that notes "Metro PD reported the accident to us and we are investigating."

Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Bill Cassell said the FAA probe "is an inquiry and it's not an accident. It's an incident. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on this incident while there is still an active, FAA inquiry into it," he said last week.

Cassell confirmed the FAA email that says the helicopters main rotor blades struck a canyon wall about 11:30 a.m. May 19, some 20 miles north-northwest of Las Vegas.

He didn't immediately answer questions about the damage total and whether or not the helicopter has been repaired and returned to service.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308.