Local News

Deputy Dies, Another Injured In Franklin County Helicopter Crash

Posted May 14, 2004

— One of two deputies on board was killed when a Franklin County Sheriff's Office helicopter crashed Friday.

Franklin County Emergency Services confirmed the helicopter was being used by the sheriff's office, which had acquired the helicopter only a month ago.

The crash occurred about a half mile west of Louisburg in the vicinity of West River Road and May Road.

The fatality was identified as 53-year-old deputy Ted Duke Horton.

The pilot, 34-year-old deputy Ben Barrick, was transported to Franklin Regional Hospital in Louisburg and was in fair condition Friday night. Barrick and his passenger were the only people on board.

It was not known where the helicopter -- a TH-55 -- was headed or what caused it to crash. Weather was not believed to be a factor.

The crash happened just a month after Franklin County got the helicopter under a verbal agreement reached by the sheriff's office and Tennessee-based Netstar Air Rescue Inc.

Under terms of the agreement, Netstar -- which is registered as a non-profit organization in Tennessee -- agreed to fully absorb the cost of operations through federal Homeland Security money.

The only cost to the sheriff's office, according to an April 14, 2004, article in the

Franklin Times,

was a $30,000 deputy's salary paid to Barrick.

The helicopter was based at the Franklin County Airport. It reportedly was available to Franklin and 11 surrounding counties at no charge, with Netstar assuming all liability.

Barrick, Netstar's president, was hired as a full-time deputy who could operate the helicopter. Another deputy reportedly also was qualified to be the pilot. It is not known if that deputy was the one who died in the crash.

The TH-55 is described as a simple, light helicopter, about 30 feet long with a maximum speed of 95-105 miles per hour. It reportedly is inexpensive to operate and maintain. It has two seats and one engine, approximately 180 horsepower.

The TH-55 was first manufactured in the 1960's. It was used by the military to train pilots during Vietnam.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office reportedly acquired its helicopter to use for surveillance, assisting with police chases and search-and-rescue operations. The helicopter was equipped with a global positioning system, searchlight and a thermal imaging system to search for people at night.

A month ago, Franklin County Commission Chairman Dr. Raymond Stone called acquisition of the helicopter a good idea.

"If the sheriff's office can have a helicopter available with no expense to the county, then it's a fortunate circumstance," Stone was quoted as saying in the April 14

Franklin Times

. "It could help an elderly person who wanders away from a retirement home; we have had a couple of instances of that.

"There might be some good uses that helicopter can be put to," Stone said. "I don't imagine it would be used often, but from time to time, it would be a great help."

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