3 crew members killed in helicopter crash in Palm Bay

WESH 2 News

PALM BAY, Fla. —Three crew members were confirmed dead after a helicopter went down in Brevard County.

Video from WESH Chopper 2 shows the wreckage, as well as a large patch of charred ground.  

Palm Bay police and fire departments went to the scene, in the area of Freeburg Avenue SW between Sapodilla Road SW and Wingham Drive SW, around 2 p.m. Tuesday. The area is known as The Compound, a fairly remote section of Brevard County.

While the helicopter, operating out of Melbourne International Airport, is an older military-style Sikorsky aircraft, it was not believed to have been operating in any kind of military capacity.

Police said the helicopter belongs to AAR, a company that repairs and maintains large helicopters at Melbourne International Airport.

There is no threat to the general public at this time; however, police are still asking people to avoid the area.

A city employee saw the crash and described it to police.

“She said it didn’t appear that there was an engine failure or that it was in distress, but it was just descending. She looked and it hit the ground hard, burst into flames. That’s what the witness reported,” said Lt. Mike Bandish with the Palm Bay Police Department.

After flare-ups into the night, what remains of the chopper is now visible, mangled and melted.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on their way to the crash site and are expected to arrive Wednesday morning.

Witness Jay Jefferson captured video of the crash, minutes after the helicopter went down into a field about 12 miles south of Melbourne International Airport.

“It was hovering around, like practicing. And took a couple of pictures,” Jefferson said.

While on his ATV, Jefferson took the last images anyone would see of the helicopter.

“Looked back and saw the smoke. And took off back as fast as we could,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson and his cousin yelled, but it was clear those on board wouldn’t survive.

The Palm Bay Police Department confirmed that three crew members perished in the crash after a city worker saw the chopper go down from about 500 feet.

AAR Airlift Group, who was using the aircraft, said no passengers were on board during the accident.

The investigation is now in the hands of the NTSB.

The following is a statement from AAR on Tuesday’s helicopter crash:

“AAR Airlift Group, Inc., subsidiary of AAR Corp. (NYSE: AIR), confirmed that a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter, operating in the Melbourne/Palm Bay, Florida, area, was involved in an accident at approximately 13:40 local time.

“There were three crew members and no passengers on board the aircraft at the time the accident occurred.

“Company officials are working closely with local, state, and federal authorities to execute an emergency response effort.

“AAR Airlift Group’s overriding concern at this time is for those on board the aircraft and their families.

“We are coordinating and cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board and may not release any other information at this time.”


3 thoughts on “3 crew members killed in helicopter crash in Palm Bay

  1. “She said it didn’t appear that there was an engine failure or that it was in distress, but it was just descending….”

    Rotors didn’t tilt.
    (they’re tilted to push the air down, and by reaction, the helicopter up. If they became stuck, you’d get what this witness described)

  2. If I was an investigative journalist, I would look for a connection between AAR Corp. and the recent destruction of the SpaceX rocket at Cape Canaveral. There don’t seem to be ‘Friendly Skies’ in this area lately.

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