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POMPANO BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Police responded to an aircraft emergency after a Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue helicopter went down as it headed to a call in North Lauderdale. Officials said two people onboard have been injured and one other person onboard is dead; one female also died after the helicopter crashed into an apartment complex.
According to officials, on Monday, the chopper had just taken off from the Pompano Air Park at 8:42 a.m. and was heading to a call in North Lauderdale regarding a car crash where a vehicle hit a bus stop at Prospect Road and State Road 7. Three minutes later, the BSFR helicopter had an engine failure that occurred shortly after takeoff.
The chopper ultimately crashed in the area of 1201 NW 6th Ave. into the complex. The crash set off a massive fire that destroyed at least two apartments.
In a news conference just before 1 p.m., Broward County Sherrif Gregory Tony said Captain/Flight Paramedic Terryson Jackson, a 19-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, died in the crash. A female resident of the building was also pronounced dead.
“This tragedy is really going to challenge us as a community, as every single tragedy has done since this agency has been around,” he said. “I will tell you we are hurting. We are an organization that has gotten past all these different divisions over the years and we have become a family. We are going to suffer, we are going to hurt, but this community should know we’re prepared to answer the next call. We are not going to lose our focus even though we are hurting and dealing with our own tragedy.”
According to BSO officials, three people were onboard the helicopter. Daron Roche, 37, and Mikael Chaguaceda, 31, managed to get themselves out and were transported to Broward Health North with injuries that were not life-threatening.
Video footage obtained by 7News showed the helicopter, with a trail of smoke behind it, that appeared to break in half and then spiral as it plunged to the ground. Another video showed the building on fire, while Roche and Chaguaceda were on the roof of another home.
It is unclear how they managed to maneuver onto the roof.
Live video footage from 7SkyForce showed several fire rescue trucks on the scene as they worked to manage the blaze.
BSO Public Information Officer Veda Coleman-Wright spoke to the public in a news conference around 11 a.m., where she confirmed investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would be on the scene, while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is already on the scene to help in the investigation.
“In incidents like this when aircraft go down, you see parallel investigations that have to occur,” she said. “We’re asking for the public to be patient with us. This part of Dixie Highway, I would imagine, would be closed for most of the day. I’m sure investigators will be back out here tomorrow.”
According to BSO, the helicopter that crashed is staffed by teams of two firefighter paramedics and one pilot EMT from the Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services. It provides emergency medical helicopter transport to local trauma centers for all Broward County municipalities and unincorporated areas.
Pompano Beach Fire Rescue officials said they treated two people from the building for injuries. Six people were transported to Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach and miraculously were not seriously injured.
A family who lives in the building said the helicopter landed right in their living room where two family members were staying. Their family said the two men were rushed to the hospital where, officials said, they were in fair condition.
“My brother was in my mom’s house,” said the family member. “They’re at the hospital right now. The [police] said they’re OK, but I haven’t spoken to them. It’s hard. Our family has been through a lot. We just lost our mom in October and my little brother just the year before, so for this to be happening right now, it feels like something on our family. I’m just gonna pray with my family and my siblings so that we can pull through and make the best out of this.”
One woman said her roommate, who is in a wheelchair, was inside the building at the time of the crash and was rushed out. They are expected to be OK.
Several witnesses said they heard a loud explosion around the time the chopper crashed into the triplex.
“I heard a loud thud, like an explosion type of thud,” said Ruben Chaves, a witness. “So I ran out, and I cross the street because I saw big black smoke, so when we got there, we saw flame, it was right on top of the roof and it was engulfing everything.”
“I heard a loud explosion,” said James, a witness.
James peeked out the back window of his home and saw flames that were close to his own building.
“I look out my window, right there across the way, and there’s a huge hole in the roof, flames are just through the whole roof,” he said.
James then said he knocked on other neighbors’ doors to let them know what was going on.
“Me and my neighbors, I pounded on everybody’s door and we all went right down there,” he said. “I didn’t even know it was a helicopter until somebody
said there was a helicopter. There’s a tail rotor in the neighbor’s backyard.”
A mother who also heard the explosion said her son told her about the fire and that she needed to leave her home.
Residents of the triplex have since been evacuated as authorities investigate the crash site.
Live video footage continued to show the charred roof of the building that appeared to be smoking from the aftermath of the crash. Residents who live inside the triplex were evacuated as firefighters extinguished the blaze.
As a result of the incident, North Dixie Highway was shut down between Northeast Fifth Street and Northeast 10th Street as deputies and fire rescue crews worked to clear the scene.
“This tragedy is really going to challenge us as a community,” Tony said. “And I will tell you, we are hurting, and so we’re going to suffer, we’re going to hurt, but this community should know we’re prepared to answer the next call. We’re not going to lose our focus, even though we are hurting and we’re dealing with our own tragedy.”
BSO is not releasing the identity of the woman who died at the complex. The NTSB and the FAA will continue to investigate this incident.
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