Four bodies, voice recorder recovered from crashed copter

Remains of 8 of the 10 people aboard the Alaska-company helicopter have been found

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2004

HOUSTON, Texas - The bodies of four people aboard a helicopter that went down in the Gulf of Mexico were recovered from the sea floor Saturday along with the aircraft's cockpit voice recorder.

Remains of eight of the 10 people aboard the helicopter that vanished Tuesday have been recovered. Divers and search crews, using remote operated vehicles, continued Saturday to check the sea bed for two missing passengers.

Three ships and a helicopter were searching on the surface while other searchers walked the coastline looking for debris or clues, National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Lorenda Ward said.

She said the recorder could have taped up to two hours of conversation between the pilot and co-pilot and may "help indicate what went wrong because there was no distress call or anything."

Offshore Energy Services spokesman Jerrell J. Wiggins said he went to the Galveston County Medical Examiner's office Saturday hoping worker Jason Petitjean, 34, of Rayne, La. was among those recovered. Petitjean was still missing, along with Jeff Langley, 42, of Kountze, Texas, who worked for Halliburton Co.

"We hope they are found soon," Wiggins said. "We're hoping there is some good news to give some closure to this family."

The U.S. Coast Guard called off its portion of the search Friday and the effort has switched to a recovery mission. Wreckage found in an area that spans 300 feet by 600 feet will be brought to the surface over the next three to five days, Ward said.

She said divers will go down about 180 feet and attach cables to pieces of wreckage which will then be hauled up to the surface. The remote operated vehicles, which are equipped with cameras and manipulator arms, also will be used.

The helicopter owned by Era Aviation Inc., an Alaska company, was last heard from at 7:12 p.m. Tuesday as it ferried two pilots and eight contractors to a drilling ship Discoverer Spirit in the western Gulf.

The helicopter, a Sikorsky S-76A, took off from an airfield in Galveston. The ship is owned by Houston-based Transocean Inc. and is working about 130 miles east of South Padre Island.

Remains of four people and a life vest were found Wednesday. The other four bodies were located Friday but couldn't immediately be recovered.

Two NTSB investigators and the Federal Aviation Administration are working to determine the cause of the crash. It could take up to 18 months for a final report.

The Galveston County Medical Examiner's Office identified the first four bodies as pilot Tim B. O'Neal, 50, of El Lago, Texas; co-pilot Donald J. Janning, 46, of Monument, Colo.; and contractors Trampas Terwillegar, 27, from Rayne, La. and Tyler Breaux, 23, of Houma, La.



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