Investigator visits helicopter crash site

An investigator has been to the site of a helicopter crash Monday in the South Umpqua River near Days Creek, and a preliminary report on the cause may be made within 10 days, a federal official said Friday.

A Federal Aviation Administration investigator checked out the crash and will report back to the National Transportation Safety Board, which will determine what caused a Jet BellRanger to plunge into the river in the 13000 block of Tiller Trail Highway. An accident notification posted earlier this week by the FAA noted the helicopter struck power lines before it fell into the river.

The three people aboard, the pilot and two Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists who were conducting fish surveys along the South Umpqua, remained hospitalized Friday.

NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said a final determination of cause may take 12 to 18 months.

A FAA spokesman said the NTSB is leading the investigation and that he could not comment.

ODFW biologist Holly Huchko, 34, was upgraded to fair condition at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield today, according to the hospital's website. She was listed in serious condition Thursday.

Pilot Fred Wittlake, 55, of Rogue River, was in fair condition at Sacred Heart, according to the hospital.

ODFW biologist Eric Himmelreich, 35, remained in good condition at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The helicopter is registered to Robert Ferreira of Ashland, according to the FAA. Siskiyou Transportation and Timberland Helicopters also are listed as owners. Ferreira is president of T L Forest Products on Dead Indian Memorial Road, according to state business records.

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