FAA to investigate Whitefield helicopter crash

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 8:00am

    Federal investigators planned to be in Whitefield on Saturday, May 31, at the scene of a May 30 helicopter crash in the woods off East River Road, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Detective Ron Rollins said. The pilot told another officer the helicopter had run out of fuel, Rollins said.

    The pilot, the helicopter’s lone occupant, was able to get himself out of the damaged craft and, after being found, walk out of the woods, Whitefield Fire Captain Tom Feeney said at the scene.

    “He was very fortunate. He walked out on his own power, so that was a big thing,” Feeney said.

    Landowner Kathleen Woodbury said she found the pilot, already outside the helicopter and on his feet, near the edge of her property. She was outside her home doing yardwork when she heard what sounded like a helicopter in trouble. She and several neighbors said they are used to hearing helicopters come and go from Maine Helicopters nearby, but that what they heard Friday afternoon sounded different. Some described clunking or other sounds, then dead silence followed by a loud crashing sound.

    “I’m just glad I was here to hear it,” Woodbury said. She went out looking on her all-terrain vehicle and found the craft and the pilot, a long way into the woods. He was bleeding from the head but said he was fine, she said.

    Delta Ambulance later took the pilot to an area hospital, emergency officials said at the scene.

    Maine Helicopters’ director of maintenance Jim McCully confirmed the helicopter belonged to the business, and that the pilot had been returning from a job when the accident occurred. McCully described the helicopter as substantially damaged.

    The Federal Aviation Administration will be handling the investigation into the crash, Rollins said. The sheriff’s department is not investigating; its role was to help in the effort to find the pilot and then secure the scene, he said.

    Several agencies helped in the incident. “It was a great response,” Rollins said. In addition to the sheriff’s department, Delta Ambulance, Whitefield Fire Department and Whitefield Emergency Medical Service, other responding agencies included the Maine Warden’s Service and Maine Forest Service; a Maine State Police plane was on the way but was turned back after the pilot was located, Rollins said.

    The pilot’s name was not yet being released. He was believed to be 50 years old, Rollins said.

    According to results of an FAA website search of the helicopter’s tail number, the craft was manufactured by Garlick Helicopters. Its current certificate was issued on April 19, 2005 and expires on March 31, 2017. The tail number was included in an FAA statement the Wiscasset Newspaper obtained on June 1.

    The FAA statement confirms that the agency will be investigating the crash, which it says occurred a mile east of Maine Helicopters’ heliport in Whitefield.