A medical helicopter carrying a child patient crash landed outside Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon – but all four people on board are expected to survive in what one official called “an absolute miracle.”
The medevac chopper crashed around 1 p.m. near Drexel Hill United Methodist Church in Delaware County on its way to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia from Maryland, authorities said.
Authorities said the passengers — the pilot, a crew member, a nurse and an infant patient — were able to pull themselves out of the wreck.
None sustained life-threatening injuries.
The infant was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but family members had not yet been notified, Upper Darby police Superintendent Timothy M. Bernhardt said at a press conference.
“It’s a miracle, it’s an absolute miracle, here what you see behind me,” Bernhardt said.
Officials described the incident as a “controlled landing” as the pilot managed to avoid utility lines and other hazards on the way down. The helicopter hit the street and bounced, then toppled over, sliding into some bushes near the church, witnesses said. A stop sign on the corner of the street was broken in two, according to the Associated Press.
When emergency workers arrived, the passengers had already gotten out of the downed helicopter, and authorities said the pilot helped the nurse with the infant to get out of the wreckage.
“I can’t wait to meet this gentleman and shake his hand for getting the helicopter down the way he did,” Bernhardt said of the pilot.
Witness video moments after the crash showed the smoking helicopter on its side in front of the church as emergency workers run toward the wreckage.
“Our utmost respect goes out to the pilot/crew of the helicopter, as all of them continued to provide care and direction for their patient and for their fellow crew members, despite their own injuries,” the Upper Darby Professional Firefighters said in a Facebook post.
Firefighters were took precautions in case fuel from the crashed helicopter could ignite, and also worked to prevent leaking gas from pouring into storm drains on the street, officials said.
There was no information on what caused the crash at about 4 p.m., the Upper Darby Professional Firefighters said in a Facebook post. But it is believed to have experienced mechanical problems, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency told The Associated Press.
Witness Jarrell Saunders, 28, said he saw the aircraft “just floating, like real low, like extremely low, like it could land on the building that I work at.”
He works at an apartment building nearby.
Saunders said he saw the chopper hit the ground in the middle of the road and then slide across the ground until it crashed into the church.
“I’m telling my grandkids about this one,” he said.
Air Methods, which owned the EC 135 helicopter, said it was part of the LifeNet program based out of Hagerstown, Md. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board have been notified of the crash and were assessing the situation on Tuesday, an Air Methods spokesman said.
“Our team will cooperate fully with their efforts to assess the cause of this unfortunate accident,” vice president of communications Doug Flanders said in a statement. “Privacy rights with regard to those on board the aircraft will be honored, and we will not be sharing any additional information.”
With Post wires
‘Absolute miracle’: Infant, three others survive helicopter crash near Philadelphia