The NTSB determined the probable cause of this accident was the pilot's decision to take off from a remote, mountainous landing site on a dark (moonless) night, in windy, instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was an organizational culture that prioritized mission execution over aviation safety, along with the pilot's fatigue and self-induced pressure to conduct the flight, and situational stress. Also contributing to the accident were deficiencies in the NMSP aviation section's safety-related policies, including lack of a requirement for a risk assessment at any point during the mission; inadequate pilot staffing; lack of an effective fatigue management program for pilots; and inadequate procedures and equipment to ensure effective communication between airborne and ground personnel during search and rescue missions.

Since the accident, the aviation section has been reorganized and added experienced safety-oriented personnel who have instituted extensive safety management, training and operational procedures.