On 5 August 2008 a Carson Helicopters Sikorsky S-61N crashed on take off. According to the NTSB, nine people were killed. These were the pilot-in-command, Roark Schwanenberg, 54, of Lostine, Forest Service safety official Jim Ramage, 63, and seven firefighters: Shawn Blazer, 30, of Medford; Scott Charlson, 25, of Phoenix, Ore.; Matthew Hammer, 23, of Grants Pass; Edrik Gomez, 19, of Ashland; Bryan Rich, 29, of Medford; David Steele, 19, of Ashland; and Steven "Caleb" Renno, 21, of Cave Junction. The copilot and three firefighters escaped the burning wreckage and survived with serious injuries. The NTSB's preliminary report determined that the cause was a loss of power on take off probably caused by an engine failure. In January 2010 the NTSB issued its final report finding that the probable causes of this accident were several actions by Carson Helicopters: intentional understatement of the helicopter’s empty weight; alteration of the power available chart to exaggerate the helicopter’s lift capability; using unapproved torque in performance calculations; and that additional causes were insufficient oversight by the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Aviation Administration. Relatives of the victims concerned by the change in the NTSB report filed a lawsuit against General Electric and on March 27, 2012 a jury unanimously ruled that the primary cause of the accident was the failure of the GE CT-58 engines.
In February 2013, two Carson Helicopters former employees were indicted over charges related to the August 2008 crash. A federal grand jury in Medford, Oregon idicted Steven Metheny, a former Vice President of Carson, and Levi Phillips, the former maintenance chief of the company. Charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States were filed against both, with Metheny also being charged with other violations including mail fraud, wire fraud, making false statements to the Forest Service, and endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. The findings of the National Transportation Safety Board in 2010 stated there was “intentional wrong-doing” by Carson Helicopters that under-stated the weight of the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter and over-stated its performance in their bid to the USFS on $20 million in contracts for seven helicopters. The August 2008 accident was then directly due to this understatement of weight and overstatement of performance.
In September 2013, former maintenance chief of Carson, Levi Phillips, admitted fraud and pleaded guilty in a deal that includes his full cooperation with the investigation, and testifying against former Carson VP Metheny