A man who survived a helicopter crash that killed one man and injured another near New Orleans May 20 reportedly told a witness that the aircraft’s landing gear became entangled in power lines.
Witness Val Harmon told The Times-Picayune that he and some friends suspected a helicopter went down in a swampy area nearby when they heard crackling and popping sounds and noticed the aircraft that had been in the air nearby was nowhere to be seen.
Mr. Harmon and two friends hopped on an ATV and drove out into the marshland near Boutte, Louisiana, part of St. Charles Parish. Arriving at the scene, they found one man standing near the fiery helicopter crash site, another injured man lying on the ground.
Fearing the injured man had spinal injuries, Mr. Harmon took the pilot, Kenneth Gestal, 38, of Florida, with him to alert search and rescue operations. Mr. Harmon told The Times-Picayune that Mr. Gestal told him that the helicopter became entangled in power lines.
Once paramedics and other responders reached the scene of the helicopter crash, they assisted crewman Chance Mills, 33, of Missouri, who suffered multiple serious injuries. Ryan Lamont Cardwell, 33, of Watonga, Oklahoma, was found underneath debris from the wreckage several hours later. He was declared dead at the scene.
“The pilot looked like he’d been punched in the eye or something, and was all banged up, but he was walking,” Mr. Harmon told The Times-Picayune. “But he was very upset with himself, I mean, really distraught. While I was bringing him back on the buggy, he looked at me and said, ‘I just killed that guy.'”
The men worked for Air2, a company that New Orleans-based electricity provider Entergy Corp contracted to perform routine aerial inspections of transmission lines.
Both the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the helicopter crash.