Guthrie doctor flew helicopter into snow shortly before crash, per NTSB

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MEHOOPANY, Pa. (AP) — A helicopter piloted by Sanjay Kansara, MD, of Guthrie flew into a band of snow shortly before spinning out of control and crashing in a remote area of northeastern Pennsylvania last month, authorities told the Associated Press.

A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board says it’s unclear whether the snow caused or contributed to the April 22 crash.

Guthrie doctor killed in helicopter crash

The Robinson R44 copter departed Allentown Queen Municipal Airport and was headed to Bradford County Airport in Towanda when it went down in Forkston Township, Wyoming County. Kansara, 54, who lived in Upper Saucon Township and commuted by air to Robert Packer Hospital in Towanda, was killed.

The helicopter was cruising at an altitude of about 3,000 feet and made a slight right turn above Forkston Township, then entered a “right, descending spiral” until tracking data was lost shortly after 9 p.m., according to a preliminary safety board report.

Weather data indicated Kansara encountered a band of snow before the descending right turn, and the report notes that Kansara wasn’t rated to fly under “instrument conditions” in which pilots are to rely on instruments rather than outside visual references. Visibility was 10 miles with frigid temperatures, according to the report.

Safety board spokesperson Christopher O’Neil stressed the report is preliminary and could change before the final report, which could take one to two years.

“We won’t get to the how and why until much later,” O’Neil said. “These are the facts were were able to ascertain.” He said a final report could take 12 to 24 months.

According to FlightAware, the flight lasted 54 miles, 20 miles short of the expected distance. At 46 miles into the trip the helicopter was traveling at 4,000 ft. going 84 MPH. Between that point and the last known contact it descended to 3,500 ft. and reached speeds between 92 and 102 MPH.

State Police say the helicopter was discovered after a medical helicopter crew noticed a fire on the ground late Thursday night. The PA Game Commission responded and discovered the wreckage.

According to Kansara’s Guthrie webpage, he had a residency at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark and worked in Anesthesiology at Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital since September 2020.

“Dr. Kansara was a devoted anesthesiologist who was committed to providing wonderful care to his patients. He was friendly and had an upbeat, positive demeanor with patients and colleagues,” said Dr. Burdett Porter of Guthrie.

According to his colleagues, Dr. Kansara had a passion for flying and enjoyed the freedom of being able to fly himself between his home in the Allentown area and Guthrie’s Sayre Campus. 

“We extend our condolences to Dr. Kansara’s family. We will all miss this fine physician and gentleman. This loss will be deeply felt by the Guthrie family,” said Dan Brown, MD, Chair, Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine at Guthrie.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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