LEALMAN, Florida - Emergency crews and witnesses say it's hard to believe the pilot of a Hughes 300 Helicopter walked away with only scratches after his aircraft fell out of the sky Tuesday in the middle of a neighborhood off 46th Avenue North in Lealman.
"His story is, he was working on the helicopter lifting it off the ground to rotate it," said Captain Jim Millican of the Lealman Fire District. "Somehow he lost his tail rotor and when he lost the tail rotor it crashed into the fence."
Witnesses a block away say they were surprised to see a helicopter taking off from the area, and were even more shocked when it started crashing down.
"It was going up, started hovering, started twisting and turning and was almost sideways when it was coming down," said mechanic Joe Milano, who was with customers when he saw the copter in trouble.
"I was on the phone running down there, just seeing if I could help," he added.
"He probably should play the lottery," said Bob Hooks, who works nearby and came to take pictures of the crashed copter. "Definitely a crash landing. I mean, it's completely broken apart. They were just looking for parts across the street, so obviously he hit pretty hard."
By the time Lealman Fire Rescue and Pinellas deputies arrived, the pilot, 60-year-old Wayne Parker, was already out.
"I would say by looking at the damage, I would have expected someone to be injured," said Capt. Millican. "I think it's very fortunate to walk out of it."
The FAA is on scene investigating what went wrong, as the helicopter pilot seems eager to clean up the mess and avoid embarrassment. As quick as the aircraft went down, co-workers helped Parker put the fence back up.
Fire crews and deputies say, to their knowledge, no laws were broken and this appears to be an unfortunate accident on private property, an accident that could have been much worse.