FAA looks for clues In fatal Reserve gyrocopter crash

RESERVE, LA (WVUE) - Federal investigators spent the day at the site of an experimental aircraft crash that killed a Metairie man and his young neighbor.

Witnesses say that propellers on top of a gyrocopter appeared to fold up before the aircraft plummeted in Laplace Sunday night. A wrecker arrived at the St John Parish airport in Reserve, as FAA investigators arrived to investigate.

"It might be a time before they figure out anything, but it's still ongoing," said airport manager Vincent Caire.

The gyrocopter was carrying 47-year-old Darren Mahler, of Metairie, and Payton Wilt, a 13- year old neighbor. It crashed Sunday evening into a drainage ditch on the west side of the airstrip.

"We see it flying around, he flew it a lot," said Gene Borne, a Reserve pilot.

The gyrocopter was a curiosity, and some went out of their way Sunday to watch the ill-fated flight.

"As he started to turn, the blades started to fold up, and as he did, pieces of the aircraft came off, and it came down without forward motion," said witness Joey Murray.

The accident stunned the experimental aircraft community.

"For the most part, it's a well respected aircraft," said Borne.

The gyrocopter, like most of the experimental aircraft housed in a hanger, was built from a kit. Though it looks like a helicopter, the top rotor is not tied to the engine. The props feather and provide lift as the aircraft is pushed forward by the rear prop.

"We don't see that many of them in south Louisiana," said Borne.

Now all eyes are on FAA investigators to determine a cause.

"Once the industry finds out why that happens, we may be able to prevent that from happening again," said Borne.

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