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Helicopter crashes in water near Kingston; one injured

Nel Sultan of Kingston submitted this photo of the helicopter that crashed near his home. His daughter, Justine, examines the aircraft
Nel Sultan of Kingston submitted this photo of the helicopter that crashed near his home. His daughter, Justine, examines the aircraft's tail. 'There are parts still scattered in the beach today,' he wrote July 13. 'I thought the FAA or Coast Guard or someone would secure them before they're lost in the sand.'
— image credit: Nels Sultan / Contributed

KINGSTON – A group of men working on summer cabins nearby were the first on the scene.

The 1958 Bell HJ47 helicopter, based in Seattle, had taken off July 12 from a private beach in the 28200 block of Sandy Beach Lane NE, where the pilot and two female passengers had been visiting with the property owners.

“Upon departure, the helicopter was observed by witnesses as flying erratically,” sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson reported. “While at an altitude of approximately 30 feet, the aircraft dropped into a depth of about six feet of water approximately 20 yards from the shoreline.”

The workmen rushed to the scene on a watercraft and helped the pilot and passengers from the helo, which had rolled onto its side and was sinking.

The first call to 9-1-1 was received at 3:27 p.m., according to Wilson. The first North Kitsap Fire & Rescue unit arrived on scene at 3:32 p.m., followed shortly after by a NKF&R boat unit, sheriff’s patrol deputies, and later by units from the U. S. Coast Guard and a sheriff’s marine services unit patrol boat.

The pilot, age 79, from Kirkland, and one female passenger were treated at the scene by NKF&R medics. The other female passenger, age 46, from Kenmore, was transported to Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, for treatment of injuries associated with exposure to aviation gasoline, Wilson reported.

Firefighters on the water contained the crashed copter’s leaking fuel with absorbent material.

The Coast Guard assumed responsibility for fuel spill mitigation and for security of the crash scene, Wilson reported. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

It was low tide at the time of the crash. “As high tide flows into Puget Sound, the helicopter will be submerged in a depth of approximately 10 to 15 feet,” Wilson reported.

NKF&R spokeswoman Michele Laboda reported the helicopter crashed about 30 feet from the shore in front of houses accessed via Sandy Beach Road. “Only a small amount of aviation fuel leaked from the helicopter,” Laboda reported.

The helicopter crash is the third aviation mishap in Kitsap this year. On Jan. 20, a single-engine plane crashed in a clearcut area near Noll and Lincoln roads in Poulsbo. The pilot, from Kent, died Feb. 7 at Harborview Medical Center. On April 30, a pilot from Port Orchard was uninjured when he landed his homemade plane at Bremerton National Airport, after his nose wheel fell off.

Above: A 1958 Bell HJ47 helicopter crashed July 12 shortly after taking off from a private beach in the 28200 block of Sandy Beach Lane NE, Kingston. A female passenger was taken to a hospital for treatment of exposure to helicopter fuel. The pilot and another passenger were not injured.

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