5 Die in Monroe Chopper Crash
Posted May 24, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
MONROE — A sad ending to a day spent at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Five people using a helicopter to get back home died when the chopper crashed on US 74 after hitting a power line.
The victims were identified as pilot John Thomas Elliott, 49, of Lawndale, and passengers Craig Goodman Rudolph, 37; Alexandra Johanna Schiffers, 30; and Kevin Dadey, 25, and his wife, Pamela, 26. All four passengers were from Charlotte.
The crash occurred about 12:45 a.m., several hours after the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race ended.
The helicopter crashed onto U.S. 74 about 30 miles from the race track, a route heavily used by vacationers traveling between Charlotte and beaches in North Carolina and South Carolina.
"It's a wonder that there was no motor vehicles involved. Cars were driving by while it was coming down on the highway," Union County Sheriff Frank McGuirt said.
The helicopter was headed to the local airport just a few miles away, said Butch Wilson, the lead investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
The six-seat Bell 206 struck a power line about 150 feet in the air, crashed into a wooded area on the side of the highway and came to rest in the highway's eastbound lanes, Wilson said.
"The questions is why he was flying so low," said Wilson, adding that the helicopter should have been flying at 500 feet.
Weather was not a factor, he said. Fog, which eventually became quite thick, was just starting to form.
Wilson said he had not been able to determine whether the helicopter's engine was running when it hit the ground, although McGuirt had said earlier that an investigator from the Federal Aviation Administration told him the engine was not running. There was no fire.
The helicopter was owned by US Helicopters Inc. of Marshville. Several calls to the company were not returned.
The Union County Sheriff's Department said damage to the helicopter made it difficult to find an identification number.