A fatal helicopter crash into the Chesapeake Bay this month may have occurred amid dense fog and poor visibility, according to a preliminary report on the incident.
Neither the pilot nor the helicopter involved in the crash appeared to have the certification to fly in poor weather conditions, according to Federal Aviation Administration records and the National Transportation Safety Board report. However, investigators have not yet determined a cause of the crash that killed the pilot and one passenger.
Officials responded May 4 about 12:30 p.m. to a report of a downed helicopter just south of the lighthouse near Bloody Point, which is off Kent Island.
The bodies of the pilot, Charles Knight, 38, of Mount Airy and a passenger, Matt Clarke, 36, of Pasadena were recovered from the wreckage, which the report states was located in about 63 feet of water.
According to several witnesses and preliminary FAA radar data, the helicopter was seen flying around the southern point of Kent Island for several minutes before it crashed, the report states.
One witness told investigators the weather was “cloudy and the fog was heavy.” Another witness reported that the helicopter was “flying very low to the water in dense fog” before the crash, according to the report.
Pilots are generally required to hold a type of certification, called an instrument rating, to fly in poor weather conditions. Knight did not have that certification, according to FAA records.
Knight’s family could not be reached for comment.
The two-seat, light Cabri G2 model helicopter also was not certificated to fly in conditions of low visibility, according to the report.
News of the crash shocked the staff of Monumental Helicopters, a Tipton-based company that rented the helicopter to Knight. He had graduated from Monumental’s pilot training program about a year ago and was a familiar face in the tight-knit flying community, company spokesman Seth Clute said.
Clute described the pilot as an “attentive and conscientious” flyer.
Knight did not share any details about the nature of the trip before he took off. Clute said he rented the company’s bright yellow Cabri G2.
Monumental owners bought the Cabri G2 model in 2017 for $415,000 and named it the “Bee.” The tiny two-person helicopter was purchased specifically for use in the company’s flight school because of its higher weight capacity.
Monumental officials plan to review the report over the coming days, Clute said in an email Friday.
Knight rented the “Bee” several times a month, including the weekend before the crash, Clute said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Catherine Rentz contributed to this article.