Pilot dies hours after tree-trimming helicopter crashes, sheriff's office says

PICKENS COUNTY, Ga. — The pilot of a tree-trimming helicopter  dies after he was rushed to the hospital following a crash Tuesday morning in north Georgia.

The Pickens County Sheriff's Office said the helicopter crashed off of Ellijay Road in Talking Rock just north of Highway 515.

Channel 2's Tom Regan was the only reporter at the scene, where wreckage of the chopper was still on its side on the ground Tuesday afternoon.

Officials said the helicopter crashed as pilot, Johnny Kent, was towing a stem of saws under the chopper and cutting back tree limbs near power lines.

Somehow, Kent lost control and crashed, officials said.

Regan talked to Kris Stancil with the Pickens County Sheriff's Office about how the crash happened.

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"He hit a tree at some point," Stancil said. "The wind was pretty strong, so there's a possibility that the wind caused it."

The chopper plunged 60 feet to the ground, the saws taking down a tree stand nearby. The impact of the crash broke the helicopter apart, officials said.

"It was kind of flipped over when it hit the ground," Stancil said. "He was hanging in the harness up against his neck. Fortunately there were some crews on the ground working with the flight crew, so they were able to get to his aide and call 911 to get here quickly."

Ken was alert and emergency medical services staff were able to communicate with him when they took him to the hospital by air ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital. Kent died shortly before 6 p.m., the Pickens County Sheriff's Office said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the cause of the crash.

Regan looked in to crashes involving aerial tree trimming and found that they are pretty rare.