Local News

Second Crew Member Possibly Found In Fatal Copter Crash

Posted May 6, 2005

— Military officials said they believe they have located the body of the second crew member in a fatal helicopter crash that happened Thursday night.

One member of the flight crew, who died in the crash and was found in the helicopter, was taken to the N.C. Medical Examiner's office at 11 a.m. Friday.

Authorities said that rescue crews are having a difficult time searching around the helicopter, which is mostly submerged in the Cape Fear River. The Apache helicopter is in two large pieces, said Capt. Matt Handley of the North Carolina National Guard.

Handley said that crews believe they may have located the second crew member, but were not certain because of murky underwater conditions. Handley said that divers are having to work by hand and feel around the aircraft as they work near it.

The helicopter, on a low-flying training mission, crashed Thursday night near the

Lee/Chatham county line

, apparently into power lines.

According to authorities, an AH-64 Apache Helicopter carrying two people with the 1-130th Aviation Battalion left Morrisville around 6:45 p.m. for a routine training mission. Guard spokesman Sgt. Brian Christiansen said he did not know where the helicopter was heading.

It was due back around 8 p.m. It was discovered around 10:30 p.m. in the Cape Fear River more than an hour after air traffic controllers last made contact with the crew, officials said.

"Right now I don't think the weather was a factor, but I can't say for sure," CW5 Robert Wehrenberg said. "This will be determined by the board later on."

National Guardsmen, outfitted in camouflage, boarded boats to help search for their comrades late Thursday night and Friday.

The identities of both crew members have not yet been released. Officials say the Guardsmen in the helicopter were trained to handle night-time and inclement weather conditions.

Authorities said power lines were down near the site of the crash. Close to 5,400 people in that area lost power for about an hour after the crash. Crews were able to reroute the power, providing a temporary fix.

It will be several days before there is a permanent repair to the lines. Customers should not experience any problems or changes in service in the meantime, however.

There is no word on the cause of the helicopter crash. Investigators from Alabama are on their way to North Carolina to find out what happened.

Based in Morrisville, the 1/130th Aviation Battalion returned in May 2004 from Afghanistan.

Soldiers at the 1-130th Battalion admit that there is an inherent risk to what they do, but it was still sad.

Most of the troops found out about the crash Friday morning.

"It's upsetting. These are the guys I've been around for years," CW4 George Wheeler said. He described the mood in the compound as somber.

North Carolina National Guard helicopters based in Morrisville have a good training record wiith only a couple minor incidents. Back in January, the crew on board a Kiowa helicopter made an unscheduled landing in Durham County after a warning light came on. The crew put the helicopter down as a precaution.

Six years ago, one of the guard's Apache helicopters made an emergency landing at Northridge Country Club in Raleigh. The pilot was on his way to a training mission in Virginia when a cockpit light came on. A mechanical problem was found on board. It was quickly fixed and the pilot flew the helicopter back to the hangar in Morrisville.

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