Brian Brunson had never observed a helicopter crash in person until he saw a Rotor Blade LLC Hughes 500 plummet to the ground Tuesday afternoon.
“It was crazy,” he said Wednesday as investigators reviewed the crash site and helicopter. “Everything was normal until it started to wobble. I thought to myself, ‘He’s going down.’
“I don’t why I thought that, but then he went down.”
A trackhoe was used Wednesday to remove the helicopter from Tuesday's crash site along Township Road 188 near Liberty Hills Golf Club . (EXAMINER PHOTO | JOEL E. MAST)
Troopers of the Marysville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol talked with pilot Leo Boucher, 50, of Manchester, N.H., on Wednesday and he reported that neither the helicopter nor the 10-bladed saw unit hit anything.
It appears that the helicopter’s turbine engine malfunctioned, troopers report.
Mr. Brunson, an employee with Thomas & Marker Construction Co., was on his way home and stopped to watch as Mr. Boucher maneuvered the aircraft — with its 80-foot boom and brush and tree cutting saw attachment — along an abandoned section of rail bed parallel to Township Road 188 south of Township Road 190.
Mr. Brunson was taking video of the helicopter with his cellular phone when the crash occurred around 4:45 p.m.
Mr. Brunson said there were no unusual sounds coming from the helicopter prior to the crash.
He ran to provide help to Mr. Boucher who was conscious, but in pain.
The pilot was pulled from the wreckage and lost consciousness until he was in a Macochee squad and en route to Mary Rutan Hospital.
He was later transported to Grant Medical Center in Columbus and was listed in serious condition this morning.
Mr. Brunson shared his video and observations with Federal Aviation Administration investigators who were on scene for more than an hour Wednesday.
Elizabeth Cory, an FAA spokeswoman out of the Chicago office, said it will be several weeks before a report will be available.
The agency does not discuss crashes while investigations are under way.
All crashes are treated the same regardless if it is a private aircraft or one for hire, she said.
Investigators look at factors such as pilot certification, condition and status of the aircraft and if the pilot was following the appropriate rules of flight, Ms. Cory said.
One such factor is the number of hours a pilot works.
Mr. Boucher was one of two pilots assigned to clear brush along the 16.1-mile route of the Simon Kenton Bicycle Path project between Urbana and Bellefontaine.
Each pilot operates the helicopter alone.
Last year, Mr. Boucher flew 1,800 hours for Rotor Blade.
Rotor Blade’s flight record is good. Ms. Cory said FAA records do not list any sanctions nor enforcement actions for the South Carolina-based firm.
The company, which is under contract with LeVan’s Excavating Co., was in the second day of the project and just a few miles from the end near Carter Avenue in Bellefontaine.
Rotor Blade uses either Hughes 500 or the later version MD 500 helicopters in its fleet of aircraft. The helicopter design has been around since the Vietnam War and variations remain in production.
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