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Helicopter crashes in Philadelphia; all 4 on board survive

UPPER DARBY, PA. – A pilot crashed a medical helicopter on Tuesday without killing anyone in a residential neighborhood in suburban Philadelphia, somehow avoiding a network of power lines and buildings as the plane hovered, hit the street and was slipping in bushes outside a church, authorities and witnesses said.

It was a “miracle” that none of the four people on board, including an infant, suffered fatal injuries, said Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy M. Bernhardt.

Rescue teams rushed to the wreckage at Drexel Hill United Methodist Church in Upper Darby around 1 p.m. and helped remove the pilot, two crew members and the baby from the plane, Bernhardt said at a press conference.

The infant was taken to hospital as authorities struggled to notify the child’s family, Bernhardt said.

The plane had taken off from out of state. It is believed he encountered mechanical problems during the flight, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said, citing reports from county officials.

At the crash site, a stop sign around the corner was cut in half and was apparently hit by the helicopter when it fell. The plane was lying on its side in two pieces, just outside the stone church.

“It’s a miracle, it’s an absolute miracle, here’s what you see behind me,” said Bernhardt, adding that he was eager to shake the pilot’s hand for bringing the helicopter down as they stepped down. did.

A witness, Joshua James, said he was driving nearby with his wife and young son when he saw the tail of the helicopter swinging back and forth as it glided to a stop . He put his car in reverse.

“It doesn’t make sense to me that he didn’t touch any of the wires or anything – that he didn’t touch us,” James said.

Jerrell Saunders, 28, said he was walking out of his maintenance job at a nearby apartment building when he saw the helicopter “floating, very low, like extremely low, as if it could land on the building in which I work “.

He got in his car to the hardware store and the helicopter was heading in the same direction. He said he saw it hit the ground in the middle of the road and slide on the ground until it crashed.

“I guess the pilot tried to land in a safe area because he bounced off the ground and fell and, like, slipped,” Saunders said.

The helicopter rolled over onto its side and as smoke billowed he saw people jump from the helicopter.

“I’m telling my grandchildren about this one,” he said.

A fire official said the helicopter had about an hour of fuel remaining at the time of the crash, and crews took action to prevent fuel leaks from contaminating groundwater.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was a Eurocopter EC135 medical helicopter and the agency was investigating, along with the National Transportation Safety Board.

A spokesperson for Air Methods, the helicopter’s owning air emergency medical transport service, said it was part of the LifeNet program based in Hagerstown, Maryland. Federal agencies were investigating.

“Our team will fully cooperate in their efforts to assess the cause of this unfortunate accident,” said Air Methods spokesperson Doug Flanders.

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Beaty reported from New York.

Correction:

This story has been corrected to show that the spelling of Saunders first name is Jerrell, not Jarrell.