Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Robinson R44 helicopter, N44EK, hit a garage and crash landed in the Chatham Village Apartments' parking lot

Friday, February 24, 2017 11:16PM

CHATHAM, New Jersey (WABC) -- A helicopter crashed into the parking lot of an apartment complex in New Jersey, and incredibly all aboard survived.

Witnesses describe hearing a small explosion that drew people from every direction to this parking lot just behind the apartment complex in Chatham.

The helicopter's tail hit a garage.

Miraculously the body of this helicopter remained mostly in tact during the crash and the pilot walked away uninjured, but his passenger was taken to a nearby hospital.

It was a surreal movie like scene that immediately drew a crowd here at the Chatham Village Apartments Friday evening, when the Robinson R44 helicopter made a sudden crash landing in the complex's parking lot just before 6:30 p.m.

"I see the helicopter was coming, it was a little high," said Jose Cascant, a witness. "I see the guy is coming around from the buildings and he tried to go."

Investigators say the 30-foot helicopter weighing more than 1,400 pounds left from Richmond, VA, and was heading toward Lincoln Park, NJ, when some sort of malfunction happened.

"We heard something we thought was an explosion and we all stopped and tried to figure out what was going on," said Sarah Schwarz, a witness.

"We ran out to see if we can help and it was right in the middle of our parking lot in our apartment complex," said Kathryn Hill, a witness.

The 54-year-old pilot from New Jersey walked away unharmed, but witnesses say his passenger seemed to be in a lot of pain.

"I see the guys coming, they pulled the window out, the door out, one guy is ok, but another hurt the back I think," a witness said.

"I saw one man who was up and walking around and checking on everything and making sure that the helicopter was safe and stabilized, and the other gentlemen who was in the helicopter was injured, but he was conscious," another witness said.

The FAA and NTSB are now investigating, and city officials say considering how close this landing was to several power lines and homes things could have been a lot worse.

"I think the pilot from my vantage point did a wonderful job landing this helicopter where he did and could've averted catastrophe," said Stephen Williams, Police Information Officer Chatham Borough. "He crashed right in between the garages and the complex, like of all places to land, I mean there was a lot of angels out there."

Two people were aboard the helicopter, N44EK, a Robinson R44 built in 1999. The helicopter is registered to an owner in Newark, Del., according to the FAA.