WEST LIBERTY, Ohio (WDTN) – A man is alive after the helicopter he was piloting came crashing down Tuesday night.
The crash happened along Township Road 188 in West Liberty.
Witnesses in the area say the helicopter was trimming trees along train tracks near the Liberty Hills Golf Course. James Bowling, who lives across the street from where the helicopter crashed, said it was the first day the helicopter was out there.
“He was probably up about a hundred feet in the air with a cable hanging down,” said Bowling. “He had some type of a saw running up the tracks.”
Bowling was watching the helicopter trim back the trees for a new bike path going in the area. He had just left to go golfing down the road.
“By the time we got there, we got out of the car and everything went quiet,” said Bowling.
The helicopter is operated by Rotor Blade in South Carolina. Pilot Leo Boucher was trimming back trees for a new bike path that would run to Bellefontaine. The city of Bellefontaine is in charge of the project and helped finance trimming back the trees.
“I understand he was busted up pretty good which isn’t unreasonable to expect but that he is conscious and speaking is a good thing,” said Bellefontaine Mayor Adam Brannon.
Brannon said Boucher was taken to a nearby hospital once emergency crews arrived. He is in serious condition.
Investigators are still trying to determine what brought the helicopter down.
“We don’t know yet why but for some reason the blade caught, maybe,” said Conrad Hostetler, the West Liberty Fire Chief. “And it brought the chopper down nose-first into the ground.”
When first responders arrived, they found Boucher outside of the helicopter and alive.
They said people who were watching the helicopter trim back the trees along Township Road 188 saw it crash. Those people rushed to help the pilot out of the cockpit.
“They saw him go down,” said Hostetler. “So they went over, unhooked his shoulder harness and seatbelts. They pulled him out. Just when they got him up, the squad got here and they took over.”
There was some speculation among witnesses that the helicopter might have hit a train parked on tracks running along the area. Hostetler said investigators were able to rule that possibility out as a cause.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Ohio State Highway Patrol is continuing an investigation into the cause.