(WWL-TV)- A normally quiet wooded area near Magnolia Ridge Road in Boutte was far from peaceful Sunday as crews investigated a helicopter crash that took the life of one and injured two others. According to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s office, the helicopter, operated by Air2, went down around 11 a.m. when the team was working on an Entergy transmission line.
“Everything around you is on fire. I really felt sorry for those guys,” said Val Harmon who, along with his three friends, was first on the scene.
Harmon, Joseph Seipel and Justin Breaux say they heard the helicopter working all morning from their house but then all of sudden the noise stopped. They immediately headed to the site which was on soggy marsh land.
“You can walk on it but if you do, your legs will go through,” said Seipel. “It’s vegetation on top of water,” added Harmon.
The neighbors used a special Argo terrain vehicle to get to the crash site. When Harmon, Seipel and Breaux arrived, the pilot was waving and there was fire all around him, according to Harmon.
“Thank God the helicopter wasn’t on fire because he said it still had a lot of fuel in it,” said Harmon.
The neighbors took the pilot, who had minor injuries, out to safety. The other victim appeared to have a serious back injury so they didn’t think it was safe to move him without a stretcher. When EMS arrived, they couldn’t access the crash site because of the marsh land but the neighbors were there to help.
“Not knowing the area, EMS is doing everything they can but they don’t know how to access it,” said Harmon. “We started hauling paramedics and firefighters back and forth and about that time they showed up with airboat.”
Officials also brought in another helicopter to airlift the victim with the back injury off to the hospital. He is listed in serious condition but is alive.
“I don’t consider us to be heroes, I just think we just happened to have the right tools at the right time and we were the first ones to see it,” said Harmon.
The third victim was nowhere to be found when the neighbors got there. Turns out he was underneath the helicopter. The body was recovered by an airboat and removed from the scene.
The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
Entergy released a statement about the crash saying, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims of this tragic event. We will be working closely with authorities as they investigate this accident.”