Helicopter crash in Fresno Co; pilot alive

Action News photographer Tom Amico sent this picture of the helicopter crash scene. He described the aircraft as a crop duster. (Tom Amico)

January 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The pilot of a crop-dusting helicopter that crashed in Fresno County is recovering in a local hospital.

The chopper went down in a field near Highway 41 and Harlan around 1:00 Tuesday afternoon.

The spray of a fire extinguisher engulfed the downed helicopter with its pilot still trapped inside. More than a dozen firefighters responded to the crash site, only a few approached the chopper, which they knew was loaded with herbicide.

Capt. Ryan Michaels said, "We know we got a report it was possible up to 5 chemicals involved and we weren't sure if they had leaked or ruptured. Anytime you hear an aircraft down, you realize there may be a significant impact."

Firefighters eventually realized only a small amount of the herbicide leaked out of the helicopter when it hit the ground. But the pilot also couldn't break free.

An hour after the crash, firefighters got him out. They sprayed him down to make sure he was decontaminated, then got him right onto the next helicopter flight, this one an air ambulance destined for a hospital.