Two Airspan Helicopters pilots walked away from a helicopter crash on the west side of Mount Gardner, Bowen Island Friday morning.
No passengers were on board and both pilots have been taken to hospital in serious but stable condition. Airspan is working with the Transportation Safety Board to investigate the accident, said Hannibal Preto, chief pilot of the Sechelt-based company in a statement.
Ground paramedics, an air ambulance, Coast Guard, Bowen RCMP and Bowen Island Fire Rescue responded to the call, which came in just before 10 a.m.
Eric Scott, vice president of operations and safety for Harbour Air, another Sechelt airline, said his company heard the call but was unable to assist. “They’re OK and that’s all that matters to me,” he said.
The helicopter crashed above one of the properties past Mount Gardner dock. Bowen resident Irene Paulus lives nearby. “I heard the strange noises – it didn't sound proper for a helicopter," said Paulus. “I looked out my window and saw it looking like it was trying to land.
“And it began to spin around and spin around and then, nothing.
“I wasn’t outside so I couldn’t hear the crash. But the two guys outside did and I heard them running and they ran down and said ‘call 911.’”
Bowen’s deputy fire chief, Ian Thompson, and several firefighters were among the first responders. The helicopter was about a 10-minute hike from the end of Mount Gardner Road, said Thompson.
“[They] took out a couple of trees and landed on a bit of a cliff,” said Thompson. “The chopper’s pretty well broken in half.
“The two guys got out and walked away,” said Thompson. “They’re two of the luckiest guys going right now.
“We thought for sure it was going to be a body recovery. But the two … were just sitting there. And there were a few little cuts on their hands and that’s about it.”
While the air ambulance was on scene, the pilots decided to take the ground ambulance and water taxi to Vancouver General Hospital.
- With files from Sophie Woodrooffe and the Canadian Press