GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Gwinnett County police say one of their helicopters crashed at Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville while returning from a call.
Two pilots were conscious and talking when they were taken to Gwinnett Medical Center just after 11 a.m. They were both taken into surgery Friday afternoon with non-life-threatening injuries to their legs and backs.
Channel 2's Tony Thomas, at the scene, said the crash broke the helicopter into two pieces. The helicopter's tail rotor broke off, and was about 20 feet from the fuselage.
“When we got out there, everything was pretty still. The top of the rotor head was still spinning. The blades had already departed,” said David Thompson, one of at least three people who ran out to help moments after the chopper went down.
“One was laying on the ground when we got there. The other was still inside kind of crouched over,” said witness Brandon Grey.
Police said the crew were returning from a burglary call when the crash happened.
"They were helping to search the area from the air. We had officers on the ground and our officers up in the air were trying to help find him, just to add extra support," said Gwinnett Cpl. Michele Pihera.
Active event: GCPD helicopter just crashed at Lawrenceville airport. Both officers are conscious. pic.twitter.com/EBx0huDqGX— Gwinnett Police Dept (@GwinnettPd) September 1, 2017
The department reported that the weather condition was windy and a storm was moving in.
“(They were) probably 50 to 75 feet when he started losing altitude. The corkscrewed into the ground. The hit spinning,” Christopher Howard said. “It wasn’t a direct drop. He still had a little bit of lift in the rotors but they hit pretty hard.”
The crash happened about 200 yards from a hangar.
“We are thankful that they crashed here and not over a neighborhood or a school or 316. Of all the places you could crash a helicopter, this would be the best possible place,” Pihera said.
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The Gwinnett County Fire Department helped rescue one pilot, who was trapped inside.
“The other pilot was still buckled and strapped in. I used his pocket knife to cut him loose from his seat belt. but he said he could not feel or use his legs,” Thompson said.
Thompson, a fellow pilot, said it’s always scary to see things like this.
“As a professional pilot, we hate to see this happen but we understand that it is part of the risk that we take and do every day,” he said.
The airport was closed for hours while authorities investigated. It has now reopened.
The Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating the cause of the crash.
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