A law enforcement helicopter crashed on Tuesday afternoon at the Charleston International Airport in North Charleston, S.C. – momentarily shutting down the facility.
Details of the crash were not immediately available, but the airport issued a statement shortly before 4:00 p.m. EST announcing the temporary suspension of all commercial air traffic due to an “ongoing incident.”
Shortly thereafter, the Charleston County sheriff’s office announced the downed helicopter was one of its aircraft.
“(Our) helicopter crashed a short time ago near Charleston International Airport,” the agency tweeted. “Crews are on scene.”
Initial reports indicate the aircraft – a 2012 Bell 407GX with tail number N31PB – was returning to the airport at the time of the incident and “lost its tail rotor on arrival.”
What might have caused that? It’s not immediately clear, although it is worth noting that approximately an hour prior to the crash, a light aircraft in the area submitted a pilot report – or “PIREP” – indicating “severe” turbulence 25 nautical miles northeast of the airport. Such turbulence was “very unusual” for the area, according to our sources, and reports of such “severe” turbulence mean “aircraft may be momentarily out of control.”
“Winds were anything but normal in the Charleston area this afternoon,” a source familiar with the situation told us.
There was no official word on injuries in the immediate aftermath of the crash, but our sources on the ground say the pilot of the chopper – lieutenant Scott Martray of the Charleston sheriff’s office – was the only person on board at the time of the crash. Martray’s status was not immediately released, but initial reports from our sources on the ground indicated he survived the crash and was transported to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) for treatment.
“The pilot was the only person on the helicopter,” the sheriff’s office tweeted several hours after the crash, confirming those reports. “He suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to MUSC.”
As of this writing, no injuries on the ground have been reported.
The crash will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Meanwhile the chopper – which has assisted in numerous high-profile manhunts – is likely a total loss.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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