AG Watch

Helicopter crashes near Chowchilla while warming citrus grove

Monday, December 09, 2013
HelicopterCrash2 Helicopter crashes near Chowchilla while warming citrus grove

A pilot flying above a 150 acre mandarin grove said he was in the air for nearly 10 hours Sunday night when something suddenly went wrong inside the cockpit.The crash happened around 6:30 a.m. on Monday near Avenue 24 and Road 24. The helicopter was being used to warm the crops and prevent the fruit from freezing.

Stephen Streeter says he was flying his 12-E Hiller helicopter over a citrus grove in Madera County, He said he had been flying the helicopter the same way he had for the past four nights when he suddenly lost control mid-air, about a hundred feet above ground.

"Had no indication of trouble and I started making a turn and it acted like it had a minor interruption in power and then it just headed for the ground," Streeter said.

Streeter was forced to execute an emergency landing. He landed the aircraft in a neighboring almond orchard--where he took out a young tree before striking the ground.

Action News Reporter: "How hard to you think you hit?"

Streeter: I dunno, my back thinks it was hard. I was wearing a helmet of course and belts and everything, but I dunno it hit pretty hard."

"That helicopter started flying last night at 9 o'clock which has been earlier than in past nights. And then it's torque converter failed I'd say about 7:15 this morning so it had pretty much been in the air except for fueling stops for 10 hours," said Jim Maxwell with Agriland Farming Company.

While the exact cause is unknown, equipment fatigue is a major concern among growers who have run their wind machines and sprinkler systems an average of 56 hours over the last six nights.

Despite Monday morning's crash the pilot said he will take the night off and fly another aircraft Tuesday evening.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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