Witness Accounts: Pilot's Struggle to Land Helicopter Before Fat - FOX 35 News Orlando

Witness Accounts: Pilot's Struggle to Land Helicopter Before Fatal Crash


New details are emerging about the fatal helicopter crash last month in which five people died, including one of the wealthiest men in Arizona.

Services Group of America founder and CEO Thomas J. Stewart was aboard, along with his wife Madena, their 5-year-old daughter Sydney, the pilot, and Madena's brother Mailang Abudula.

The Eurocopter EC135 went down in Cave Creek amid a handful of residences. People living there say they heard loud popping sounds and saw the aircraft go down in pieces and burst into flames.

Witnesses to the fiery crash called 911 in a panic to tell told dispatchers what they saw.

Operator: "Are you close to the helicopter?"
Caller: "Yes it's nothing. It's completely on fire. No one's... there's no one alive."

Witnesses could tell the pilot, Rick Morton, was having trouble in the air.

Caller: "I saw it sputtering and twirling around and then I went to the phone in the house... I didn't see it hit the ground."

Many callers describe hearing a loud noise just before the crash.

Caller: "It was a loud popping noise like something broke. Just one loud ping and then it just totally went down and out of control. And it looked like he was going to regain control before it got to the ground but then the smoke came up."

The chopper slammed into a dry wash and exploded on impact. In a newly-released report from the Sheriff's Office, one witness says the pilot "did his best" to save lives on the ground, saying, "He was trying to land in the wash to avoid hitting any of the houses," and "The pilot was doing everything in his power to avoid a crash."

According to the report, pieces of the helicopter broke off before it went down.

The helicopter was traveling from the Stewarts' Flagstaff ranch to Scottsdale when it went down on the afternoon of Feb. 14.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined. Federal investigators expect to have a final report on the cause in the next 6 months or so.

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