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Helicopter Crashes Near Salton Sea

A crop dusting helicopter in Mecca struck a power pole Tuesday then barreled into the ground sending the 62-year-old pilot to the hospital.

But authorities said he will survive.

The Riverside County Sheriff and Fire Department’s responded to the crash at 70th Avenue and Lincoln Street just before 3 p.m.

“(The pilot) was all bleeding from his hands and from his face,” said Moises Bello, 10, who lives yards away from where the helicopter went down.

Bello and his sister Maria Delgado saw the tail of the low-flying chopper strike a powerline then slam into the ground.

“It was scary,” said Delgado. “I was scared. I was worried about him.”

Bello saw the pilot try turning the helicopter around, “Then it hit the pole on the back of its wing and then, immediately when the airplane hit the floor, it exploded,” he said.

Delgado took photos of the scene immediately after the crash.

Neighbors responded quickly by helping the pilot up and out of the helicopter.

It was totaled. But the pilot walked away with minor to moderate injuries.

He was taken by ambulance to JFK Memorial once county fire arrived.

“He was flying the fields,” said Lt. Terrence Tingle, with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. “He wouldn’t have been over the homes.”

Several local agencies responded to the crash including hazmat and county agriculture.

The crop duster was carrying aviation fluid and 8 gallons of pesticides.

However just a small amount of the pesticides leaked and posed no health threat to residents, according to authorities.

“We’re going to take aerial photographs (and) ground photographs,” said Tingle. “We’re gonna put it all together to see if there was any criminal behavior and go from there.”

If not, the sheriff’s department will turn its report over the Federal Aviation Administration which is already involved in the investigation.

A friend of the pilot said the pilot owns a crop dusting business in Salton City, and that his son may have been out in the fields with him.

“I think, I don’t know for sure, that they have a ground person when they’re doing crop dusting with the radio in contact with the helicopter directing some of the flight,” said Tingle. “I don’t know if it was (miscommunication) or if he just flew and clipped the pole by accident — I really don’t know.”

KESQ News Team


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