WASHINGTON -- A scratch on a rotor blade that occurred during the helicopter's manufacture apparently led to a 1989 crash that killed five people, including three Trump casino executives, the National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday.
Developer Donald Trump himself was scheduled to be on the doomed flight but decided at the last minute that he was too busy to leave New York.
The federal investigators said the probable cause of the accident was 'fatigue failure of the main rotor blade spar, which originated at a manufacturing induced scratch (tool mark) that was the result of inadequate quality control.'
Witnesses said the rented helicopter appeared to break up in flight on Oct. 10, 1989, as it flew over a crowded parkway, sending the vehicle out of control and crashing to the ground in Ocean County, about 30 miles north of Atlantic City, N.J.
Investigators from the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration scoured the heavily wooded crash site along the Garden State Parkway, and managed to recover all pieces of the helicopter except an 8-foot piece of one of the four main rotor blades.
The rear tail rotor was found about three-fourths of a mile from the crash scene.
NTSB investigators determined that the separated blade 'failed from fatigue. The fracture had initiated at a manufacturing induced scratch in the spar of the blade.'
'There was evidence that the crack originated where a sharp tool was used to trim the edge of the adhesive filet,' the NTSB report said.
The Augusta A109A Mark II helicopter, rented from Paramount Aviation, was bound for Atlantic City from New York when the accident occurred. It had logged 922 hours of operation before the crash.
Killed in the crash were Stephen Hyde, 43, Trump's righthand man in Atlantic City; Mark Grossinger Etess, 38, president of then unfinished Taj Mahal; Jonathan Benanav, 30, vice president of Trump Plaza Hotel Casino; Capt. Robert Kent, 27; and his co-pilot, Lawrence Diener.
The three executives were described by a casino industry analyst as 'the best and the brightest' in the Trump casino empire.