ASN logo
ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 44135
Last updated: 16 February 2019
This information is added by users of ASN. Neither ASN nor the Flight Safety Foundation are responsible for the completeness or correctness of this information. If you feel this information is incomplete or incorrect, you can submit corrected information.

Time:14:30 PDT
Type:Silhouette image of generic R44 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Robinson R44 Raven II
Owner/operator:Zimmer Air Services, Inc.
Registration: C-FICL
C/n / msn: 11209
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:16 nautical miles East of Desert Center, California -   United States of America
Phase: En route
Departure airport:Zamperini Field, Torrance, California (TOA/KTOA)
Destination airport:Blythe Airport, Blythe, California (BLH/KBLH)
On May 1, 2006, about 14:30 PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), a Robinson R44 Raven II, Canadian registration C-FICL, experienced an in-flight breakup and impacted desert terrain near Desert Center, California. Zimmer Air Service, Inc., was operating the helicopter under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The Canadian certificated commercial pilot and the non-rated passenger sustained fatal injuries. The helicopter was destroyed. The cross-country delivery flight departed Zamperini Field Airport (TOA), Torrance, California, at 13:05 CDT, with a planned refueling stop at Blythe Airport (BLH), Blythe, California. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The approximate global positioning system (GPS) coordinates of the primary wreckage were 33 degrees 38.016 minutes north latitude and 115 degrees 05.224 minutes west longitude.

The pilot had taken delivery of the new helicopter from the Robinson Helicopter Company factory in Torrance on the day of the accident. The pilot and passenger, who were employed by Zimmer Air Service, Inc., departed from TOA with an intended final destination of Blenheim, Ontario, Canada.

Riverside County Sheriff's Department personnel responded to the accident site and interviewed two ground witnesses. The witnesses related that they saw the helicopter just before it impacted the ground. They reported that the tail boom had separated from the fuselage; they did not see the separation sequence.

The on-scene examination of the accident site and wreckage revealed that the helicopter and separated components came to rest about 200 yards south of Interstate 10 (I-10) at mile marker 124. The accident site was 16 nm east of Desert Center, and 25 miles west of the city of Blythe. The area was open and flat with low shrubs, typical of desert terrain.

The main wreckage, consisting of the fuselage, engine, transmission, cockpit, most of the right skid tube, a portion of the left skid tube, and the majority of both main rotor blades, came to rest on an orientation of 280 degrees magnetic.

The tail boom was 100 feet west of the main wreckage. The tail boom separated just aft of the main fuselage attach point. The tail rotor blades and tail rotor transmission were attached to the tail boom, with minor ground impact damage noted.

The primary wreckage debris field was about 500 feet long. The primary wreckage debris field consisted of the right side pilot's door, which was in two pieces, and pieces of fiberglass and Plexiglass. A secondary debris field, consisting of papers and light cockpit materials, was another 400 feet downwind from the accident site. The debris path was along a magnetic bearing of 090 degrees.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: A loss of control and the divergence of the main rotor blade system from its normal rotational path for undetermined reasons.

Additional: the families of the two fatalities later took out a lawsuit against Robinson Helicopters (see link #4), which was settled on January 25, 2012, and the following is an extract from the contemporary newspaper report on that...

"In a dramatic move that stunned some jurors, a lawsuit brought by the families of two men who died in the crash of a helicopter built by a Torrance company was settled just one day into a civil trial.The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleged negligence by Robinson Helicopter Co. in the death of the two men. The company manufactures more helicopters than any other in the world. Resolution of the case came a day after opening statements. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

“All I can say is justice was done,” said Los Angeles-based lawyer Kevin Boyle, who represented the widow and family of Leo Straatman, a passenger in the Robinson R-44 helicopter that went down in May 2006 near Desert Center, Calif. “The family members feel vindicated that we proved the pilot and passenger did nothing wrong,” added Boyle, an attorney with the firm of Panish, Shea and Boyle. “(The quick resolution) tells us that they saw the writing on the wall and they saw that the jury was going to side with the plaintiffs and believed there was a defect in the helicopter.”

The helicopter crashed about halfway between Blythe and Coachella after the tail boom broke off and the main rotor hit the cabin, severing one of pilot Frank Verellen’s legs. Kurt Robinson, president and chairman of the company started by his father, said the settlement constituted no admission of liability.

“We’re very pleased the matter was resolved and we offer our condolences to both families,” he said.

Family members of the two men reviewed a confidential settlement figure and then told Judge Michelle Rosenblatt that they were in agreement with it.

“I know this has been difficult for the parties on both sides,” Rosenblatt said. “I hope this resolution brings all of you some peace.”

The chopper was 85 minutes into its maiden voyage from Torrance’s Zamperini Field to southern Ontario, Canada, where it was being ferried by Verellen to Robinson dealer Zimmer Air Services Inc., said lawyer Brian Panish, who represented the Verellen family."


1. NTSB Accident Number: LAX06FA156 at

Revision history:

28-Oct-2008 00:45 ASN archive Added
21-Dec-2016 19:24 ASN Update Bot Updated [Time, Damage, Category, Investigating agency]
05-Dec-2017 09:11 ASN Update Bot Updated [Operator, Other fatalities, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]
24-Oct-2018 00:30 Dr.John Smith Updated [Time, Other fatalities, Location, Nature, Departure airport, Destination airport, Source, Narrative]

Corrections or additions? ... Edit this accident description