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NTSB Report Adds Weight To Criminal Probe Of Chopper Crash

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FRANKLINTON, N.C. — A final report by the National Transportation Safety Board on a fatal Franklin County helicopter crash could add credence to a criminal investigation.

Investigators say Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy Ted Horton died when the helicopter he was in crashed in May 2004 while doing surveillance work for the sheriff's office.

Shortly after Horton's funeral, the investigation into what happened exploded into questions over blame. Sheriff Jerry Jones took criticism because he signed a deal to lease the helicopter.

Over time, however, much of the investigation's focus fell on pilot Ben Barrick and in June, Franklin County District Attorney Sam Currin called on the State Bureau of Investigation to investigate.

The final NTSB report confirms the crash was caused by fatigue and failure on the tailboom.

NTSB investigators concluded, despite directives to inspect the chopper, inadequate maintenance led to the crash. When Barrick signed the deal with Jones, though, he guaranteed a helicopter that was in excellent flying condition.

The NTSB report also blames for the crash the pilot's lack of proper certification.

The SBI has not yet completed its investigation into what happened.

At last report, Barrick moved to Tennessee and continues to draw worker's compensation from Franklin County.


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