PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – The Pigeon Forge Police Department has released the names of victims that died in a helicopter crash in Pigeon Forge on Monday afternoon.
The pilot of the sightseeing helicopter, operated by Smoky Mountain Helicopters, is Jason Dahl, 38, of Sevierville. The four passengers on the helicopter include Johna Morvant, 49, and her two children Peyton Rasmussen, 22, of Huntsville, North Carolina and Parker Rasmussen, 18, of Huntersville, North Carolina. Michael Genn Mastalez, 21, of Prosper Texas was also killed in the crash.
Family said Peyton and Parker Rasmussen were visiting their mother, Johnna Morvant when they decided to go on the sightseeing tour.
Luke Schiada, with the NTSB, said crews will be at the site of the wreck, which happened at around 3:30 p.m. Monday off of Rainbow Road in Pigeon Forge, for the next couple days gathering information. Then they’ll transport the helicopter, to a warehouse in Springfield, Tennessee for further analysis.
Full video: NTSB briefing on helicopter crash
Schiada said a preliminary report will be released in the next week. A factual report will be released in the next couple of months that includes everything from the pilot’s background, medical certifications, information on the company, the helicopter’s maintenance history and weather conditions.
That factual report will be sent to the NTSB board in Washington D.C. where they will decide on a probable cause of the crash. However, Schiada said the review process could take up to a year.
“We’re in the process right now of documenting the perishable information, trying to identify switches, ground scars, separating components, radios, before it gets moved by the recovery and that’s what we’re spending our time doing here on the scene,” said Schiada. In addition, there is some reports and it looked like there was a piece of debrief that might be in a nearby, I think it’s called the Little Pigeon River, and the Pigeon Forge Fire Department are actually wading in the river right now looking parts and recovering the ones that we know about and actually conducting a search for those parts.”
The fact that the wreckage was consumed by fire makes the investigation much more difficult, according to Sciada. “It does appear that the entire helicopter is at the scene, however it is extremely fragmented due to consumption from post-crash fire. It looks like the helicopter impacted near the top of a ridge and then a post-crash fire pretty much consumed the entire wreckage,” he said.
Investigators also found parts of the helicopter’s landing gear on top of the ridge-line. A timelapse video from the WATE 6 Storm Team’s towercam shows the smoke from the mountain.