UPPER DARBY, Pa. (NewsNation Now) — A medical helicopter crashed Tuesday in a residential area of suburban Philadelphia, with all four people on board including an infant expected to survive, authorities said.
Rescue crews rushed to the crash near a church at an intersection in Upper Darby’s Drexel Hill neighborhood at about 1 p.m. and helped pull the pilot, two crew members and an infant patient from the aircraft, Upper Darby police Superintendent Timothy M. Bernhardt said at a news conference.
When the pilot landed the helicopter, some drivers pulled over, stopped and started helping people out of the downed craft.
None of those on the helicopter suffered life-threatening injuries, Bernhardt said, adding he can’t wait to shake the pilot’s hand for the safe landing of the helicopter.
The infant patient has been taken to a hospital, but family members haven’t been notified yet, Bernhardt said. The flight originated out of state.
Photos and video from the scene show the helicopter damaged and on its side, just outside the church and underneath power lines. Insignia on the side of the aircraft indicated it was a medical helicopter.
Besides major damage to the helicopter, there was reportedly little damage at the crash site, except for a stop sign that was sliced in half.
“It’s a miracle, it’s an absolute miracle, here what you see behind me,” Bernhardt said.
Jerrell Saunders, 28, works at an apartment building nearby doing maintenance. He said 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 a 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 into the church.
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.
The flight had taken off from out of the state, and was on its way to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) when the pilot started experiencing mechanical problems mid-flight. An official cause for the crash is still being determined, however.
A fire official said the aircraft had an hour’s worth of fuel left when it crashed. Crews took steps to keep the fuel from leaking and contaminating groundwater.
Upper Darby Township Fire Chief Derrick Sawyer told NewsNation he was astounded there wasn’t more damage.
“Once I pulled up on scene and realized that everyone got out safely, it was amazing,” he said.
Sawyer hasn’t been able to speak with the pilot yet, but is looking forward to it.
“I did get to speak with some of his employers. I said to them, ‘they have to make sure they keep this guy on the payroll.’”
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash along with the National Transportation Safety board.
Air Methods, an air medical emergency transport service that owns the helicopter, said it was part of the LifeNet program in Hagerstown, Maryland.
“Our team will cooperate fully with their efforts to assess the cause of this unfortunate accident,” said Air Methods spokesman Doug Flanders.