Four killed in helicopter crash
Three passengers and one pedestrian dead after aircraft dropped to ground in Cranbrook
CRANBROOK - British Columbia, four people were killed in Cranbrook today when a helicopter crashed in a residential area near the East Kootenay town’s downtown.
Witnesses watched in horror as the chopper hovered at a low altitude over town - and then suddenly lost power and plummeted to earth.
The Cranbrook RCMP has yet to confirm details but the chopper is believed to have been operated by Bighorn Helicopters and contracted by B.C. Hydro.
Remains of a helicopter that crashed in Cranbrook today.
A pilot, two B.C. Hydro employees and a pedestrian were killed.
Fred Deschamps, 62, was at his kitchen sink when he saw the helicopter crash in front of his driveway, near the intersection of 14th Avenue and 10th Street.
Deschamps swore in astonishment, told his wife to call 911 and ran outside. Another neighbour had also raced to the crash scene and together they pulled one body away from the burning helicopter.
“My neighbour started patting him down and I ran for my garden hose. Another guy showed up with a towl and put the flame out,” said Deschamps. "But his clothes were badly burned from what I saw. I think he was thrown from the helicopter.
“They got the flames out, but I’m pretty sure he was deceased by then.”
The retired Cranbrook man said that “it was not a pretty sight, I’ll tell ya. I’m just glad my grandchildren were not playing in the back yard.”
Another resident, Fred Schindel, watched the helicopter hover over the East Kootenay town for 15 to 20 minutes before it fell.
“It kept hanging in the air and banking to the left. I thought either they were sightseeing or looking at property,” said Schindel, a 67-year-old retired Cranbrook resident who had been outside cleaning up his yard.
“But the helicopter couldn’t seem to get any power. It was running full-tilt but it was like there was no power to pull the blades.”
Finally, the helicopter’s tail dropped at a 45-degree angle, said Schindel.
"The helicopter was above a house with a big tree and then it dropped and immediately burst into flames. Just a big black ball of fire came up. “I’m still shook-up.”
Brian Clarkson, a local photographer, arrived at the scene of the crash shortly after it occurred. He said that police had placed a tarp over one victim and another tarp over the badly-burned wreckage of the helicopter, which witnesses said contained two to three victims.
The crash occurred at about 12:45 p.m.
Bighorn Helicopters of Cranbrook refused to confirm that it owned the ill-fated heliocopter.