Helicopter crashes near Chowchilla while warming citrus grove

FRESNO, Calif.

Stephen Streeter says he was flying his 12-E Hiller helicopter over a citrus grove in Madera County, He said he had been flying the helicopter the same way he had for the past four nights when he suddenly lost control mid-air, about a hundred feet above ground.

"Had no indication of trouble and I started making a turn and it acted like it had a minor interruption in power and then it just headed for the ground," Streeter said.

Streeter was forced to execute an emergency landing. He landed the aircraft in a neighboring almond orchard--where he took out a young tree before striking the ground.

Action News Reporter: "How hard to you think you hit?"

Streeter: I dunno, my back thinks it was hard. I was wearing a helmet of course and belts and everything, but I dunno it hit pretty hard."

"That helicopter started flying last night at 9 o'clock which has been earlier than in past nights. And then it's torque converter failed I'd say about 7:15 this morning so it had pretty much been in the air except for fueling stops for 10 hours," said Jim Maxwell with Agriland Farming Company.

While the exact cause is unknown, equipment fatigue is a major concern among growers who have run their wind machines and sprinkler systems an average of 56 hours over the last six nights.

Despite Monday morning's crash the pilot said he will take the night off and fly another aircraft Tuesday evening.

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