Narrow escape! - Trainee pilot walks away from helicopter after crash-landing
Investigators at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority, along with the army, have initiated a probe into yesterday's emergency landing by a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) trainee pilot, who narrowly escaped serious injuries when a Bell 206 helicopter he was flying came crashing down in the vicinity of Dunbeholden in St Catherine.
The pilot, a trainee at The Caribbean Military Aviation School, walked away with no major injuries from the twisted metal remains of the training helicopter, which came down about one mile south of Caribbean Estates and even closer to the Phoenix Park community.
With the JDF personnel imposing restrictions as to how close the media could get to the helicopter, it was difficult to assess the damage to the Bell 206.
However, from a vantage point, the Gleaner news team was able to identify the helicopter, which was almost reduced to scrap metal.
The emergency landing occurred about 10:40 in the morning in an open area where sugar cane is grown.
Following the accident, a team from the JDF flew the trainee pilot to the University Hospital of the West Indies, where he underwent medical evaluation.
The trainee, who has been a member of the JDF for six years and has two years of training as a pilot, was the sole person on board the aircraft at the time of the incident.
The JDF has had the helicopter for about 11 years.
"At this moment, our main concerns are obviously the health of the pilot but also preserving the integrity of the crash site. Any attempt to find out what caused the accident is going to depend heavily on the evidence that we can gather," Major Basil Jarrett, the JDF's civil military cooperation and media affairs officer, told The Gleaner.
Jarrett said the fact that the helicopter came down in a wide open field was a positive indicator.
"These helicopters have been tried, tested and proven as training platforms in many military (forces) worldwide and so we would really like to find out how this could have happened," he said.
When news first broke that a JDF helicopter had crashed, reporters went on a frantic search in the hills of Green Bay in Portmore, St Catherine, where the incident had reportedly taken place.
Residents living off Port Henderson Road in the vicinity of the old Forum hotel in Portmore, as well as police personnel, rushed towards the hills of Green Bay to find the ill-fated helicopter.
ABOUT THE BELL 206 HELICOPTER
- The Bell 206 is a family of two-bladed, single- and twin-engine helicopters.
- It was manufactured by Bell Helicopter at its Mirabel, Quebec plant.
- It was originally developed as the Bell YOH-4 for the United States Army's Light Observation Helicopter programme. It was not selected by the army.