Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Silverlight Aviation AR1 American Ranger, N463JW: Accident occurred October 03, 2019 in Fort Meade, Polk County, Florida

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Tampa

Rotorcraft crashed under unknown circumstances.

Jeffs Gyroplanes Inc


Date: 03-OCT-19
Time: 20:30:00Z
Regis#: N463JW
Aircraft Model: AR1
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91

A Coast Guard helicopter from Clearwater rescued the pilots of two other helicopters Thursday, one flying a small gyrocopter and the other a Polk County Sheriff’s Office aircraft that had come to help him.

The two copters crashed in the soft clay of a phosphate mine discharge pond, the Sheriff’s Office said.

The pilots were chest deep in the clay when the Coast Guard arrived in an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter. They were flown to Tampa General Hospital.

The gyrocopter pilot, Jeff Wright, 56, of Lutz, was undergoing treatment Friday at the hospital. The sheriff’s pilot, Deputy Lavon Hughes, 52, was treated and released.

The two choppers were still stuck in the clay Friday morning, said sheriff’s spokesman Brian Bruchey. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the sheriff’s helicopter can be repaired.

“That mud is so thick you can’t walk through it,” Bruchey said. “Our helicopter is halfway exposed and halfway in the clay.”

The discharge pond, on property owned by phosphate producer Mosaic Co., is southeast of Fort Meade. Clay is a byproduct of phosphate mining.

The Sheriff’s Office was notified of the gyrocopter crash around 2 p.m. on Thursday.

Hughes, flying the sheriff’s single-engine, 1972 Bell OH-58 helicopter, responded and spotted Wright standing and waving from the ground, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Wright was flying a two-seat, rotary-wing, American Ranger AR-1 Gyroplane.

The sheriff’s helicopter crashed about 3 p.m., some 100 yards away, Bruchey said.

Neither pilot could be reached by foot, boat or all-terrain vehicle.

So the Coast Guard in Clearwater was called in at about 3:30 p.m. and hoisted the two men aboard its helicopter by cable, Wright in a medical rescue basket and Hughes in a halter.

The Coast Guard flew the two men to Tampa General.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause of the crashes.

In a news release, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd thanked the agencies that came out to help in the rescue — Polk County Fire Rescue, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Mosaic personnel, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and the Coast Guard.

“This was an extraordinary situation,” Judd said, "and we’re happy that both men were not seriously hurt.”

Story and video ➤ https://www.tampabay.com

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