For a month, 2nd Lt. Zac Cook could call himself an Aggie grad. Cook graduated in December 2008, but was one of two men to die in January, in an Army Blackhawk helicopter crash at Texas A&M University.
On January 12, a 911 caller told the dispatcher "The Corps guys, they just crashed right here though. You need to get everybody you can get over here."
That day five Blackhawk helicopters were at Texas A&M's Duncan Field, moving 200 Aggie ROTC students to Camp Swift, near Bastrop.
Cook was one of five men on board as one of the crafts headed back to Easterwood Airport to refuel. According to the Army's investigation, not long after take off, one of the pilots felt an obstruction in a pedal. The Army said the tail rotor malfunctioned, sending the helicopter spinning left. It crashed not far from where it took off.
"As it hit the ground, you felt the ground shake and it just threw debris all over the place," said one witness.
According to the report, the problem was an uncommon type of rotor malfunction, and one not heavily emphasized during training. As a result, the Army said the crew of the UH-60 Blackhawk misdiagnosed the emergency.
The helicopter was in the process of turning when one of the men felt pressure feedback in the pedals. Blocking the pedals, the report said, could have been a crew member's foot, or an aircraft checklist.
According to the Army, "Whatever the cause of the feedback, the obstruction itself did not cause the accident. The crew's actions, after the pedal bind/restriction occurred, are what caused the aircraft to impact the ground."
Investigators said because the emergency was misinterpreted, "action taken by one of the crew members increased the rate of spin and rate of descent." They also found one of the men's actions "did not comply with Aircrew Coordination Program." Names were redacted from the report provided to News Three.
"If the emergency had been identified properly," concluded investigators, "this would have given the crew more time to apply aircrew coordination procedures and maybe led to a more controlled and safer landing."
According to eyewitnesses, it would have been a split second decision.
"He came up a little bit and started going clockwise, but slowly, but he went up, climbed about 100 feet, and then he came straight down but like in a corkscrew and it was just fast, I mean, fast, you could hear the blades cutting through the wind," said one man.
While Army investigators said the emergency should have been handled differently, the report found the crew was not negligent or careless.
The report recommended all UH-60 Blackhawk pilots be retrained so they could correctly diagnose the type of rotor malfunction experience in the crash.
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