A helicopter crashed on a busy Tampa road while trying to make an emergency landing Thursday, April 4, killing a nearby motorist and injuring another. Florida authorities investigating the crash say the aircraft was “brand new” and its pilot was highly experienced.
The helicopter – a Robinson R44 – reportedly was on its way to Sarasota when it experienced “catastrophic engine failure,” the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department said, according to the Ocala StarBanner.
Video footage of the crash shows the aircraft rapidly descending onto Palm River Road near the intersection of S 50th Street. As the aircraft was making a hard landing on the busy street, its rotor blades struck a telephone pole, sending one of the blades hurtling.
The Florida Highway Patrol said the rotor blade that broke off flew across the street and struck a Chevy Silverado pickup truck, killing 72-year-old Deodat Persaud Gangapersaud of Plant City. Mr. Gangapersaud’s son, 35-year-old Ryan Anthony Persaud of nearby Dover, Florida, who was driving the truck, was also taken to Tampa General Hospital for treatment and observation.
Neither of the helicopter pilots was injured in the crash. Authorities identified them as Bryan Thomas Messick, 38, of Bradenton, Florida, and co-pilot Joshua James Wells, 21, of Pinellas Park, Florida.
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister told the Tampa Bay Times that Mr. Messick is a “highly trained” helicopter pilot and that the helicopter had just been serviced, passed several safety tests, and was deemed to be properly functioning.
Dan Boggs with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which sent a unit to investigate the crash, told WFTS ABC Action News in Tampa that the helicopter is brand new.
Mike Andrews, who focuses much of his practice at Beasley Allen on aviation litigation, said, “The fact that this was a newer helicopter, coupled with the fact that it had just been serviced, raises serious questions about why it would experience an engine failure. This case underscores the necessity for properly operating aircraft because people on the ground are at risk as well.”
The NTSB will issue a preliminary report on the helicopter crash in about two weeks. The agency generally issues a final report one year to one and a half years after an accident.