This still image shows the helicopter that crashed in Upper Darby, Philadelphia. Authorities say the medical helicopter crashed into a residential area. Photo / AP
A pilot crashed Tuesday without a medical helicopter without casualties in a residential area of the suburb of Philadelphia, miraculously avoiding a network of power lines and buildings as the plane fluttered, hit the street and slipped into bushes outside a church, authorities and a witness said.
None of the four people on board, including an infant, sustained life-threatening injuries, Upper Darby Police Inspector Timothy M. Bernhardt told a news conference, adding that he was eager to press the pilot’s hand to get the helicopter down, as they did.
Rescue crews rushed to the wreckage of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church in Upper Darby around 1 p.m., helping get the pilot, two crew members and the infant patient off the plane, Bernhardt said.
The infant was taken to a hospital as authorities worked to notify the child’s family, Bernhardt said. The flight originated from the state.
At the scene of the accident, a stop sign on the corner was split in two, which appeared to have been hit by the helicopter as it came down. The plane was on its side in two pieces, just outside the church. Insignia showed it was a medical helicopter.
“It’s a miracle, it’s an absolute miracle, here’s what you see behind me,” Bernhardt said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it was investigating it with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Jerrell Saunders, 28, said he was quitting his job of maintaining an apartment building nearby when he saw the helicopter “just float, as really low, as extremely low, as if it could land on the building I work at” .
He got in his car to go to the hardware store and the helicopter drove in the same direction. He said he saw it hit the ground in the middle of the road and slide across the ground until it crashed down.
It turned on its side and when the smoke came out. He saw people jumping out of the helicopter.
“I’m telling my grandchildren about this,” he said.
A firefighter said the helicopter had about an hour of fuel left at the time of the crash, and crews took steps to keep fuel out of polluting water.