OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — Two victims involved in a helicopter crash Thursday afternoon around 4:30 p.m. were still being evaluated in the hospital late Thursday night, according to a New Hanover Regional Medical Center spokeswoman. The aircraft fell 50 feet into the water off of Oak Island.
The U.S. Coast Guard says the two rescued near the Yaupon Pier had taken off from ILM about an hour earlier.
“All of a sudden it started going down and I didn’t think anything unusual,” said Cass Safrit, who witnessed the crash. “I just thought he was going to hover lower to the water.”
“I thought he was trying to land until he hit and I saw a big splash and he rolled over,” said Warren Harrell, who also witnessed the helicopter crash.
The Coast Guard’s initial report says the pilot was flying about 50 feet off the water with a passenger when the rotor stalled, causing it to fall, crash and flip into the ocean below.
“Emergency personnel were on the spot very quickly and it looks like everyone did a good job getting those folks on shore,” Safrit said.
A good samaritan who was in a nearby boat rescued the two victims, a man and woman. The two had minor cuts and bruises, but were taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center for evaluation
The helicopter belongs to boatpix.com, a company that takes photos of boats from the air.
The Coast Guard says the National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the crash.
Ed Crump, a reporter from our sister station in Raleigh WTVD, was on vacation at Caswell Beach and saw the crash.
“I remarked about it going by, and then I said, ‘Oh, it looks like he’s gonna land,’ but he went down way too hard, and the thing went under water, flipped over,” Crump said. “I got the binoculars the neighbors had and watched it. It appeared two people were taken out of the helicopter by nearby boats, or at least pulled out of the water, and the rescue people we’ve seen go out came back for a backboard, but didn’t bring anybody, and they also didn’t dive by the helicopter, so we’re still awaiting word on the condition and the number of people.”
Tommy Thoms, the owner of the pier, told WTVD he saw the chopper hit the water. He, too, said it was floating upside down, but two people in it got out OK.
“I thought he was gonna land. He had pontoons,” witness Warren Harrell said. “He went down pretty hard. It made a big splash.”