MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP/WSVN) — A helicopter crashed Saturday into the ocean waters off Miami Beach, plummeting a few feet away from swimmers in a crowded stretch popular among tourists, officials said.
Two passengers were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in stable condition, and no one else appeared to be injured.
The Miami Beach Police Department said on Twitter that it received a call just after 1:10 p.m. about the crash in the area off South Beach, near 10th Street.
A video shared by police captures the helicopter descending over the ocean and crashing into the water as sunbathers crowd the beach and others swim.
“You saw it start to wobble,” said witness Bruce Hunter.
Nearby surveillance cameras captured the incident from another vantage point, as the Robinson R44 helicopter started to lose speed and altitude.
Police said there were three people on board, and two of them were the ones who were taken to the hospital.
A man from Chile said he helped pull the pilot and a woman out of the aircraft. Cellphone video showed him on top of the chopper trying to open the hatch.
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Hunter was among the good Samaritans who went into the water to help the victims.
“The pilot’s going back in. There’s an older woman that’s actually lodged between the seat belt, the chair and the side of the helicopter,” he said. “We’re pulling at an angle, like a 45-degree angle, to keep her out of the water while the pilot’s got a knife. He’s trying to cut the belts out. There’s another man on the hatch trying to hold her head up out of the water.”
Police closed off a two-block stretch of the beach, between Ninth and 11th streets, in the area where travelers frequent outdoor cafes, restaurants and shops. The Federal Aviation Administration later responded to the scene.
Aviation expert Miles O’Brien spoke with 7News Saturday night.
“Was there an engine failure, or was it a tail rotor failure? If there was a tail rotor failure, was that caused by some sort of object?” he said. “Maybe, did it strike an object? Being so low, who knows what it might have struck. All of those things will be on the plate.”
FAA officials are investigating. They said there were no distress calls from the helicopter prior to the crash.
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