Cause of helicopter crash into apartment complex in Chatham under investigation

Saturday, February 25, 2017
Helicopter crash under investigation at apartment complex in Chatham
AJ Ross has the details from Chatham.

CHATHAM, New Jersey (WABC) -- The cause of a helicopter crash in the parking lot of an apartment complex in New Jersey is under investigation.

At the Chatham Village Apartments Friday evening, the Robinson R44 helicopter made a sudden crash landing in the complex's parking lot just before 6:30 p.m.

"We heard something we thought was an explosion, and we all stopped and tried to figure out what was going on," said Sarah Schwarz, a witness.

Miraculously, the body of the helicopter remained mostly intact during the crash and the pilot walked away uninjured, but his passenger was taken to a nearby hospital.

Investigators said the 30-foot helicopter, weighing more than 1,400 pounds, left from Richmond, Va., and was heading toward Lincoln Park, N.J., when there was a malfunction. The FAA and NTSB are now studying the crash.

City officials said considering how close this landing was to several power lines and homes, it could have been a lot worse.

"I think the pilot from my vantage point did a wonderful job landing this helicopter where he did and could've averted catastrophe," said Stephen Williams, police information officer of the Chatham Borough. "He crashed right in between the garages and the complex, like of all places to land, I mean there was a lot of angels out there."

Witnesses describe hearing a small explosion that drew people from every direction to this parking lot just behind the apartment complex in Chatham. The helicopter's tail hit a garage.

"I see the helicopter was coming, it was a little high," said Jose Cascant, a witness. "I see the guy is coming around from the buildings and he tried to go."

The 54-year-old pilot from New Jersey could walk, but witnesses said his passenger seemed to be in a lot of pain.

"I saw one man who was up and walking around and checking on everything and making sure that the helicopter was safe and stabilized, and the other gentlemen who was in the helicopter was injured, but he was conscious," another witness said.