Report: Timmonsville pilot was conducting golf ball drop on day of crash

TIMMONSVILLE, SC (WBTW) – A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board provides more detail about the deadly helicopter crash in Darlington County in April.

The crash happened on April 21 around 4:30 p.m. near Timmonsville Highway and the helicopter pilot, Dr. James R. Schuster, died after the helicopter struck trees and crashed, the FAA confirmed. Schuster was a dentist practicing in Timmonsville, reports say.

According to the NTSB Aviation Accident Preliminary Report, the privately owned and operated Bell-Carson Super C-4 helicopter departed from the Huggins Memorial Airport in Timmonsville and the purpose of the flight was to conduct a golf ball drop at a fundraising event 13 miles northwest of the accident site near a private airstrip in Timmonsville.

The report also features an account from a person who lived about quarter of a mile away from where the helicopter crashed. The man was outside and heard the helicopter nearby but couldn’t see the aircraft over the tree-line. “At first you could hear the rotor blades, then they got quieter and the engine sound got louder,” the witness reported. Next, the man head the rotors hitting the trees and the explosion of the crash and watched a plume of black smoke rise from his neighbor’s yard.

Officials report the initial impact point was in a tree-top 60 feet in the air at the edge of a line of trees. Parts of the helicopter were located under the damaged tree. The rest of the wreckage was found between 90 and 100 yards past the damaged tree. The helicopter was partially consumed by fire, the report states.

The helicopter maintenance records were not immediately recovered and investigators could not determine the aircraft’s maintenance history.”Burned pages consistent with maintenance records were found throughout the area of the main wreckage,” the preliminary report says.

The report lists the aircraft as destroyed but the helicopter has been retained for further examination.