Medical helicopter collides with airplane leaves 2 dead www.privateofficer.com
WEYERS CAVE VA Dec 31 2010 A midair collision between a small airplane and a medical helicopter killed two people Friday near the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport in Weyers Cave, authorities said.
Both occupants of a single-engine Cessna 172L were killed when it plummeted into a farm field after clipping AirCare 5, a medical transport helicopter, at about 2:30 p.m., authorities said.
The collision occurred over the 800 block of Route 256, about a half-mile north of the airport, said federal aviation authorities and Virginia State Police.
A witness described a glancing blow that knocked off the airplane’s left wing
Impact with the ground destroyed the Cessna, authorities said, and left debris on both sides of Route 256. Authorities did not identify those who were killed.
The damaged Eurocopter EC135, returning from the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, landed safely with two crewmembers aboard, authorities said.
Helicopter instructor Mark Huntley said he was working on his aircraft in an airport hanger when he heard the collision.
“I saw the helicopter come in and … it wasn’t pretty,” he said.
Huntley said the pilot of the helicopter did an “amazing job” of landing.
“It was a combination of how well all the safety features they have on that aircraft worked and [the pilot’s] ability to recover,” he said. “It’s a testament to the training those boys get.”
Huntley said the helicopter sustained damage to its skids, which are used for landing.
Doug Ward, a resident of nearby Airport Road, heard about the crash from a relative and raced to the scene with his stepdaughter, Samantha Hostetter, who is trained as a first responder.
When Ward arrived, he saw crumpled wreckage, a hole in the ground and the airplane’s propeller up. He saw a body on the co-pilot side of the plane.
There was nothing they could do.
The airplane was registered to Michael W. Price, an Elkton man, said Jim Peters, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.
The helicopter is registered to PHI Inc. in Lafeyette, La.
Calls to Price’s home and PHI were not answered.
State police First Sgt. Scott VanLear said a local investigator will work with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to determine the cause of the crash.
VanLear, an airport spokesman and the FAA did not immediately know where the airplane was coming from or its destination.
Airport Director Greg Campbell said flights in and out of the airport continued on schedule after the crash.
According to the Cessna website, the Cessna 172L, also know as a Skyhawk, is one the most flown aircrafts and is ideal for training.
Since 1980, NTSB records show four aircraft crashes in Weyers Cave. Two resulted in deaths.
Statewide since 2005, 11 helicopters have crashed, including a June 2009 non-fatal crash in Greenville, where a helicopter was performing aerial tree trimming. The NTSB has not released a final report in that crash.
Huntley, the helicopter instructor, described a midair collision as a pilot’s nightmare.
“It’s one of the worst things that we go through,” he said. “The pilot, he was very professional shutting it all down. It wasn’t until he was on the ground for a little bit ‘til he showed signs of what he’d been through.”