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Officials: Pilot dies in fiery Duke Energy helicopter crash in Eden, two passengers survive
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Officials: Pilot dies in fiery Duke Energy helicopter crash in Eden, two passengers survive

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There's no word yet on what may have caused the crash that killed the pilot and left two injured. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

Updated 9:39 p.m.

EDEN — Two men escaped from a fiery Duke Energy helicopter crash here Wednesday afternoon, but their pilot died when the Bell 429 aircraft went down in a wooded area near the Dan River Combined Cycle Station.

Officials had not released the names of the men, all employed by Duke Energy, as of 9:30 p.m. The two injured passengers were rescued by emergency personnel and one remains at UNC Rockingham Health Care here where he is listed in fair condition, a hospital spokesperson said.

The second passenger was airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and his health status is not known, Rodney Cates, director of Rockingham County Emergency Services, said at a press conference around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Emergency personnel and investigators on scene of Duke Energy helicopter crash

Federal Aviation Administration officials had arrived from Raleigh to take over the crash site late Wednesday and were seeking answers to what went wrong as the trio of men did routine power line inspections. Their 4,700-pound helicopter was seen flying unusually low by numerous witnesses before it crashed around 1:30 p.m. in the wood line around the Rosewood Lane residential area. The area is about 1 mile from Freedom Park.

Duke Energy helicopter crash (copy)

Emergency personnel are on the scene of a Duke Energy helicopter crash (top left of photo), Wednesday, April 28, 2021, near the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C. Rockingham County EMS director Rodney Cates said that two people were transported to the hospital, one by ground and one by air.

No residences were affected by the crash and there were no power outages, authorities said.

"The helicopter was engulfed in flames and firefighters worked to extinguish the flames," Cates said in a news release late Wednesday. "Once the fire suppression was complete and the scene was safe to approach, responders located the pilot of the helicopter who was deceased.''

Earlier in the day at the news conference, Cates said the helicopter, which came to rest on its right side, was carrying a "heavy" fuel load at the time of the wreck.

Authorities said they did not know from where the helicopter took off on Wednesday. There were no reports of distress from the pilot to local agencies, Cates said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to send investigators to assist in removing the craft's wreckage on Thursday, Cates said in the release. And an environmental cleaning agency will help Thursday in managing the crash site where firefighters sprayed flame-suppressing foam around the perimeter to prevent a wild fire.

"Though this was a horrific scene and a tragedy for the pilot and his family, who will remain in our thoughts and prayers ... a Duke Energy representative stated that this was an outstanding response from the 'Team,' '' Cates said in the release.

In addition to the FAA, 15 state and local agencies responded to the crash.

Plenty of residents living in the area heard the helicopter flying low just before the crash, Cates said.

“It was shaking my house it was so low,” Joe Scott of Eden said.

Shelly Horton of Eden said she was driving home to the Draper section of Eden when the helicopter flew over twice.

"I thought it was a little suspicious because I’ve never seen them fly that low for that long," Horton said. "I was driving east on Stadium Drive. It was headed north the first time it flew over and south towards the power plant when I seen it the second time. But it never occurred to me that it might be in trouble."


Updated 8:49 p.m.

EDEN — Officials said Wednesday night that the pilot was killed and two passengers were injured when a Duke Energy helicopter crashed earlier in the day in a wooded area.

There's no word yet on what may have caused the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.


Updated: 6:06 p.m.

EDEN — Officials said there were no records of any distress calls to local agencies from the pilot of a Duke Energy Bell 429 helicopter that crashed Wednesday afternoon, leaving at least three people from the aircraft injured.

Officials did not have the names of two men who were rescued after the crash. And they weren't sure if there might be other victims still at the crash site because the aircraft was “an active fire scene,’’ Rodney Cates, director of Rockingham County Emergency Services, said at a press conference around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Cates said the helicopter crashed around 1:30 p.m. with a “heavy” fuel load in a wooded area near Rosewood Lane, a residential area near Freedom Park, and was still burning, creating hot spots and making the site difficult for emergency workers to examine closely. He said the aircraft was on the ground resting on the passenger’s side.

By early evening, officials with the Federal Aviation Administration told WGHP-Channel 8 that three people were aboard the chopper that’s listed by Bell Aviation as weighing around 4,700 pounds. The men were doing routine power line inspection work at the time of the crash, said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks, who could not confirm whether there was a third passenger.

The two recovered victims were conscious when emergency personnel arrived at the crash site, Cates said. One of the men is being treated at UNC Rockingham Health Care here, while the other was transported around 2:45 p.m. by helicopter to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Firefighters sprayed a fire-blocking foam border around the crash perimeter to protect surrounding forest area, Cates said. The crash took place along the wood line of property near the Dan River Combined Cycle Station, Cates said.

While plenty of residents living in the area heard the helicopter flying low just before the crash, no homes were affected and there were no power outages, Cates said.

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“I heard it go over my house and it was shaking my house it was so low,” Joe Scott of Eden said.

Shelly Horton of Eden also saw the helicopter flying low before the wreck.

“But it never occurred to me that it might be in trouble,” Horton said.

This is a developing story. Check back at rockinghamnow.com and greensboro.com for updates.


Update 4:35 p.m.

EDEN — Officials said there were no records of any distress calls to local agencies from the pilot of a Duke Energy helicopter that crashed Wednesday afternoon, leaving at least two people from the aircraft injured.

Officials did not have the names of the two who were injured and weren't sure if there might be any other victims because there are still a lot of hotspots around the site where the Bell 429 helicopter crashed and caught fire.

Firefighters had sprayed a foam-blocking foam border around the crash perimeter to protect surrounding forest area, Rodney Cates, director of Rockingham County  Emergency Services, said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

He said the helicopter crashed about 1:30 p.m. in a wooded lot near Rosewood Lane, which is a residential area.

No homes were affected by the crash and there were no power outages, Cates said.

He said they did not have information on where the helicopter had come from or where it was headed. Earlier in the day, Duke Energy confirmed the helicopter was one of the utility's, but officials did not release any details such as the number of people in the aircraft or its destination. The helicopter crashed near the Dan River Combined Cycle Station.

The two males pulled from the helicopter, which was on the ground resting on its passenger side, were "both were conscious and communicative," Cates said. He said one was taken to a local hospital, presumably UNC Rockingham Health Care, and the other was taken by medical helicopter to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

The Bell 429, which is described as a light, twin-engine helicopter, can seat up to seven people and a pilot, according to the manufacturer's specifications.


Update 3:46 p.m.

EDEN — Duke Energy says one of its helicopters crashed this afternoon, but the utility does not have any more information on the situation.

Duke Energy statement: "Shortly after 1 p.m. today, we received word of an incident near the Dan River Combined Cycle Station involving a Duke Energy helicopter. We are currently investigating the incident and are working with local emergency management officials. We will provide additional information as appropriate."

Officials on the scene told RockinghamNow and the News & Record that at least two people were injured in the crash.

This is a breaking news. Check back at rockinghamnow.com and greensboro.com for updates.


Update 3:35 p.m.

EDEN — The Federal Aviation Administration has been called in to investigate a helicopter crash off Rosewood Lane.

The Rockingham County Sheriff's Office said in a news release the FAA has been requested to respond to the site. The sheriff's office said it began getting reports about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday of a crash. The sheriff's office, Eden police, state troopers and various emergency response crews from across the county are at the site of the crash.

Check back at rockinghamnow.com and greensboro.com for updates.


EDEN — Emergency crews responded Wednesday afternoon to a helicopter crash in Eden.

Triad TV stations reported the helicopter crashed near the Duke Energy plant at the intersection of South Edgewood Road and Rosewood Lane. The crash site appears to be in a wooded area past the houses that line Rosewood Lane.

It wasn't clear what caused the helicopter to crash or what kind of helicopter it is. UNC Rockingham Health Care, which has a helipad, is nearby. Witnesses described the helicopter as blue and white.

Investigators told WFMY-Channel 2 that there were injuries reported, but gave no other details.

“I heard it go over my house and it was shaking my house it was so low,” Joe Scott of Eden said.

Shelly Horton also saw the helicopter flying low before the wreck.

“But it never occurred to me that it might be in trouble,” Horton said.

Check back at rockinghamnow.com and greensboro.com for updates.

Contact Susie C. Spear at sspear@rockinghamnow.com, 336-349-4331, Ext. 6140 and follow @SpearSusie_RCN on Twitter.

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