Helicopter crash kills one, injures two; neighbors help rescue survivors
ST. CHARLES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - One man is dead and two others are injured after a helicopter crash in a remote area of St. Charles Parish, which occurred Sunday around 11 a.m. Several strangers told FOX 8 News how they rushed to help.
Just beyond the marsh in Boutte, three friends were planning their Sunday. The familiar sound of a helicopter whirring in the distance, as workers checked nearby power lines.
All of a sudden, the men thought they heard a crash.
"We just had to go check because we were skeptical about what really happened and that's what Justin told me and I was like, 'there's no way.' He said, 'do you hear the helicopter?' I was like, 'no.' You couldn't hear it," said Boutte resident Val Harmon.
The three used an amphibious vehicle to journey through the swamp.
"We kept driving until we got to the smoke," said Harmon.
"We could see the smoke and we were fearing the worst," said Boutte resident Joseph Seipel.
"The pilot was waving and everything around him was on fire. All the grass," recalled Harmon. "He said one is deceased. He said, 'my buddy, the other guy over here, his arm is broken. I think his back is broken. And I'm okay.'"
The trio found the crew member in desperate need of medical attention. They took the pilot to safety and sent for paramedics.
"The problem that we have is this is such a remote area. It's wetlands so the only way we can access this is airboat or by pontoon track vehicles. So it makes it a little hard to make it to and from the scene," explained St. Charles Parish Sheriff's Office Captain Patrick Yoes.
Harmon had that covered. He shuttled paramedics and firefighters to and from the scene.
Seipel worked to keep the crewman conscious.
"He was going out from the pain. He was passing out," Harmon said.
Justin Breaux tried to put out the flames near the half-submerged, helicopter wreckage.
"We were just putting out the fire and waiting for others," said Boutte resident Justin Breaux.
Meanwhile, their wives directed emergency vehicles to an accessible area of the marsh.
"We're standing on solid ground here but you don't have to go very far before you actually hit water," Captain Yoes said.
An airboat took the crewman to safety and, eventually, recovered the body of the third passenger.
"There was a third person who was trapped underneath the helicopter. It took us a little while but we received permission from the NTSB to lift the helicopter and recover the third body," said Yoes.
The three men say this is a day they won't soon forget.
"Adrenaline!" Seipel said. "Those guys would've done the same for us. I guarantee."
"I don't consider us to be heroes. I think we just happen to have the right tools at the right time and we were the first ones to see it," said Harmon.
"Maybe we saved him," added Seipel. "Feels good."
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