Feds to Investigate North Carolina Helicopter Crash

March 17, 2008

A Wilmington, N.C. fire captain died last week when his helicopter crashed and exploded near the city, authorities said.

John Miller was the only passenger in the helicopter, said Sgt. Craig Bredenbeck of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. He was headed south when the two-seat aircraft began spinning out of control.

“We don’t know where he was going but we know he crashed shortly after takeoff,” he said.

He said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the accident.

Debbie Broyles, the sheriff’s office supervisor, said March 13 that deputies received a call shortly before 10 a.m that a helicopter had crashed.

The aircraft, a Robinson R22, was built in 2000, Wilmington International Airport Director Jon Rosborough said. Miller wasn’t required to file a flight plan, he said.

Several people said they saw the helicopter in trouble.

Jerry Dreisbach told the Star-News of Wilmington he was outside when he looked up and saw a helicopter “spinning in the air.”

“Before you know it, it was coming down. It crashed and exploded into flames, smoking,” he said. “When you see something like that before you, you’re amazed. It can’t be, but it was.”

Nelson Cook, who was outside, also looked up when he heard a loud noise. “It sounded like the engine blew up.”

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