Student pilot killed in chopper crash near Felts Field

Published On: Sep 13 2011 03:26:55 PM PDT   Updated On: Jun 03 2010 12:22:55 AM PDT

Inland Helicopters confirms one of their helicopters being flown by a student pilot has gone down east of Felts Field. That student pilot was killed in the crash.

The tail section of the helicopter was found in the backyard of a home east of Felts Field while the rest of the airframe was found several meters down the road near another home.

The Robinson R22 involved in the crash is a two-seat helicopter but the student pilot was the only person aboard the aircraft. No one was injured on the ground when the helicopter came down.

"I first noticed the sound because it sounded like the motor was cutting in and out and then I looked up and it looked like he was just spinning around out of control," eyewitness Stacia Gillaspy said.

Another eyewitness, Tom Sargent, reported seeing parts of the rotor falling off the helicopter and then it fell out of the sky; he heard an explosion shortly afterward.

"Actually I saw parts of the blade come apart and fall out of the sky is basically what happened," Sargent said. "Then it turned like this and just went straight down. There was a boom right after that."

Tom called 911 and then he and several neighbors who witnessed the crash rushed over to where the main part of the airframe came down in a nearby yard to see if there was anything they could do for the pilot.

"It wasn't good ... as far as we could tell there was no pulse and he died instantly I would say. It was pretty sad," Tom said.

Sergeant Dave Reagan with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office says the pilot crashed while returning to Felts to land following a solo flight.

FAA authorities are on the scene to begin their investigation into the crash while NTSB investigators will likely arrive sometime on Thursday. A search of the NTSB database shows 10 crashes of Robinson R22 helicopters since 2007.

Before Wednesday's crash near Felts Field only of those 10 crashes of Robinson R22 helicopters involved a fatality.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner will likely release the pilot's identity later this week.

Investigators believe they've found most of the aircraft, but are asking any neighbors that come across debris from the helicopter to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

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