NTSB: No known cause of fatal helicopter crash in Maplewood

The charred remains of a helicopter could be seen being loaded onto a tow truck the afternoon of June 19, 2013. (File photo)

More than nine months after a helicopter plummeted into a Maplewood garage, exploding into flames and killing the pilot, the cause of the crash is still unknown.

On March 24, the National Transportation Safety Board adopted its final report of the crash that occurred at about 8:15 a.m. June 19, 2013, along the 2700 block of East Seventh Street, which is near the Maplewood Nature Center.

Michael Kramer, 44, of St. Charles, Minn., was piloting the helicopter under a contract with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, spraying the area for mosquitoes. He died in the crash.

Investigators found no mechanical or computer malfunctions or failures in an examination of the helicopter, though parts of the control system were destroyed in the fire.

Weight wasn't a factor either; the helicopter weighed less than the maximum limit.

That morning, Kramer had already completed two aerial applications of mosquito-control spray.

According to the MMCD, the soil bacterium treatment picked up by the helicopter shortly before the crash is applied to ponds, wetlands and areas of standing water to prevent mosquito larvae from reaching adulthood.

Helicopters performing this kind of application generally fly at much lower altitudes and airspeeds than other aircraft.

GPS data and witnesses' reports agreed the helicopter was flying at a low altitude, and later descended, diving into the garage and hitting the ground.

The fire following the crash destroyed the front of the helicopter and much of its control system, according to the report.

Witnesses of the crash reported 20- to 30-foot-high flames that consumed the garage.

Investigators photographed the site the day of the crash and gathered statements from witnesses.

Authorities then conducted an autopsy and toxicology testing. The NTSB also reviewed Kramer's flying experience and aircraft records.

Nothing indicated a cause of the crash.

"The reason of the loss of helicopter control could not be determined," the report says.

The helicopter was a Bell 47 contracted by Scott's Helicopter Services in Le Sueur, Minn.

According to a Metropolitan Mosquito Control District spokesperson, the agency had four similar crash-related incidents in the 25 years prior to the crash.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7814 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.

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