LINO LAKES, Minn. (AP/WCCO) — Law enforcement remains on the scene of an Anoka County sod field, where two people died in a fiery helicopter crash.
Authorities stood guard throughout the night protecting the charred and scattered debris of what was a four-seat helicopter.
“It was so close to all these houses right here,” said Debbie Reynolds, who lives nearby.
Reynolds lives across the street from where the chopper went down in a fireball. She heard a loud bang, felt the house shake and saw people running to help.
“I don’t think there was anything people could do, because we saw the police and I don’t think firetrucks could get close because was such a big fire,” she said.
Other witnesses told investigators that they saw pieces falling from the sky prior to the helicopter fall from the sky.
Authorities confirmed today that the 48-year-old pilot and his 47-year old female passenger from Blaine, were killed instantly. Names are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
The two had just departed from the Anoka County Airport, three miles to the southwest.
Explains another eyewitness, Eddie Turner, “I’m watching and I can see something falling to the ground, and I’m thinking that the helicopter dropped something.”
Turner videotaped the burning debris as it came to rest on the sod field. The helicopter was purchased this past summer from an owner in Florida. That’s where in 2006, crash reports reveal that a portion of the tail rotor separated, causing a hard water landing.
The national Transportation Safety Board traced the problem to metal fatigue and a manufacturing flaw. Fortunately, the pilot in the 2006 crash walked away uninjured.
“Witnesses reported they saw the helicopter and heard a pop or bang, and the rotor appeared to stop turning, the helicopter dropped out of the sky,” Anoka County Commander Paul Sommer said.
While federal investigators continue to search for what caused the crash there are a number of factors to consider, including weather, pilot operation, in flight bird strike and the craft’s maintenance and history.
That finding is still months away.