Two people were killed on Friday when a helicopter suffered a mid-air breakup close to Dallas and came plunging to the ground in a fiery crash.
The helicopter crashed at approximately 11.30 am into an empty lot on a busy commercial strip along Texas 66 in Rowlett, killing the pilot and another person on board, but leaving no one on the ground injured.
Because the doomed chopper came down in a busy area during the lunch hour rush, there were numerous eyewitnesses, and the video shows the aircraft’s tail rotator plunging to the ground separately from the body.
According to KDFW-TV, the helicopter was owned by Sky Helicopters in Garland and was on a training flight when it came down.
The private firm offers helicopter tours of Dallas, flight training, and also contracts with several local television stations to provide aerial news coverage.
Sky Helicopters didn’t immediately reply to an inquiry from a newspaper outlet on Friday afternoon.
FAA records show the chopper was a 2016 Robinson R-44 Rotorcraft, which retails for approximately $475,000.
According to a 2018 Los Angeles Times investigation, the R-44 is the best selling civilian helicopter in the world and has a long history of fatal crashes, but the privately held Robinson Helicopter company refuted those findings.
The body of the helicopter that crashed on Friday anchored in a vacant field surrounded by several businesses, while the tail section landed on a nearby storage business.
Philip Herndon told the local Fox affiliate that he heard an explosion, and a few seconds later, he saw the helicopter strike the ground. He said he jumped out and it was already a ball of fire. He said he tried to get him out but it was too late.
Other bystanders tried to render help, but the fire seething in the wreckage made any recovery endeavour impossible.
John Rangle told the station that you could see people getting close, you could see them back away protecting themselves because it was just so hot and that there was nothing they could do to save them, unfortunately.
Rowlett police Detective Cruz Hernandez said that witnesses reported seeing the helicopter’s tail rotor break mid-air, sending the aircraft into an unruly spin before it crashed and exploded into flames.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating.
The FAA questioned witnesses on Friday afternoon and NTSB investigators are expected to arrive early Saturday morning to survey the damage.
Based on an analysis of National Transportation Safety Board accident reports, it was found that the R-44 had a rate of deadly accidents that was nearly 50 per cent higher than any other of the dozen most common civilian models whose flight hours were tracked by the Federal Aviation Administration.
It was found that from 2006 to 2016, R-44s were involved in 42 fatal crashes in the United States.
Deaths in the R-44s were attributed to preventable post-crash fires, helicopters that fell from the sky when they unexpectedly lost lift, main rotor blades peeling apart in flight or slicing through tail booms or cockpits.
Federal agencies were also probing the crash of a helicopter with three passengers into the Atlantic Ocean close to swimmers and sunbathers in Miami Beach, Florida in February, on a Saturday.
The Federal Aviation Administration said a Robinson R-44 helicopter plunged into the ocean near a crowded beach at 1.20 pm local time. The Agency said it was investigating the cause of the crash with the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Miami Beach police and fire departments responded to the scene and said on Twitter that two of the passengers were transported to a local hospital in a stable condition.