UPPER DARBY, Pa.—A pilot crash landed a medical helicopter Tuesday without casualties in a residential area of suburban Philadelphia, miraculously avoiding a web of power lines and buildings as the aircraft fluttered, hit the street, and slid 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 Superintendent Timothy M. Bernhardt said at a press conference, adding that he was eager to shake the pilot’s hand for getting the helicopter down the way they did.
Rescue crews rushed to the wreckage by the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church in Upper Darby at about 1 p.m. and helped get the pilot, two crew members and the infant patient out of the aircraft, Bernhardt said.
The infant was taken to a hospital as authorities worked to notify the child’s family, Bernhardt said. The flight originated out of state.
At the crash site, a stop sign on the corner was cleaved in two, appearing to be hit by the helicopter as it came down. The aircraft was on its side in two pieces, just outside the church. Insignia indicated it was a medical helicopter.
“It’s a miracle, it’s an absolute miracle, here what you see behind me,” Bernhardt said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it was investigating, along with the National Transportation Safety Board.
Jerrell Saunders, 28, said he had was walking from his work in maintenance at an apartment building nearby when he saw the helicopter “just floating, like real low, like extremely low, like it could land on the building that I work at.”
He got in his car to go to the hardware store and the helicopter was going 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.
It turned on its side and as smoke was coming out. He saw people jumping out of the helicopter.
“I’m telling my grandkids about this one,” he said.
A fire official said the helicopter had about an hour’s worth of fuel left at the time of the crash, and crews took steps to keep leaking fuel out from contaminating water.
By Claudia Lauer and Thalia Beaty