Friday, March 23, 2012

NTSB to investigate hard landing by Palm Beach County sheriff's helicopter west of Delray Beach

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate what caused a Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy this afternoon to make a hard landing while flying the sheriff's Eagle 1 helicopter, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Two deputies, the pilot and co-pilot, were aboard the helicopter that landed just before 3 p.m. in a wooded area on West Atlantic Avenue in suburban Delray Beach, just west of Lyons Road, said Teri Barbera, sheriff's spokeswoman.

By the time Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews arrived at the scene, the two male deputies were out of the helicopter and walking around. The deputies, whose names were not released by Barbera, were taken to Delray Medical Center with minor injuries.

The helicopter was seen by witnesses flying south along State Road 7, then east, then north. As it went north it was seen "significantly" dropping in latitude, Barbera said.

"It didn't really crash," Barbera said. "It landed very hard."

The pilot landed the aircraft facing north with its nose against a wall surrounding Four Seasons, a gated community just north of West Atlantic Avenue. The pilot missed a convenience store, landing just north of its back wall. Witnesses at the store thought the aircraft was headed straight for them, Barbera said.

"We know that the pilot did a great job of missing that convenience store" and the homes, she said.

The cause of the crash is unknown and Barbera did not know where the pilot was headed during the flight.

The helicopter was flying in clear conditions with winds out of the east at 10 mph.

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