“Hard” American River canyon landing for helicopter

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Two occupants of a helicopter were able to walk away from what is being described by a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman as a “hard landing” in the American River canyon below Auburn. The chopper – a 21-year-old Bell 206 co-owned by TGR Helicopters of Clovis and Rogers Helicopters – began to vibrate violently over the canyon, forcing the pilot to land in the old Auburn dam site, said Mike Fergus, an FAA spokesman. Fergus said the helicopter was forced to land around 2:15 p.m. Thursday. The copter ended up on its side after landing on an open area on the El Dorado County side of the river, across from the Placer County Water Agency pump station. Lt. Bryan Golmitz, of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, said the California Highway Patrol chopper dropped a paramedic onto the incident scene and he quickly determined no injuries occurred. The name of the pilot and passenger were not released. Jana Morris, a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. spokeswoman, said the helicopter was being operated by a business that has done contract work for the utility. But it was not working for PG&E at the time it was forced to land, she said. The landing left the chopper on its side leaking oil, with its rear rotor about 40 feet away. The FAA is conducting an investigation into the cause of a landing that Fergus said left the helicopter with substantial damage. A Pleasant Grove aircraft-recovery business was called in to remove the grounded helicopter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.