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Crop-dusting helicopter crashes near Somerton
A Yuma pilot was uninjured after the crop-dusting helicopter he was flying crashed into the ground just inside the city limits of Somerton early Saturday morning.
Somerton/Cocopah Fire Department spokesman Robby Rodriguez said firefighters received a call at 12:12 a.m. about a downed helicopter at Tumbaga Loop and Main Street.
“It crashed on the edge of the road near a small irrigation canal, with the tail end of it striking a City of Somerton sign in the process,” Rodriguez said.
According to Rodriguez, the pilot was able to free himself from the wreckage and was standing nearby when they arrived on scene.
“He was shook up, but uninjured,” Rodriguez said. “He just had a scratch on one of his arms.”
The rear engine section of the helicopter was also on fire and was quickly extinguished. In describing the scene Rodriguez said the tail end of the helicopter had been torn off and the cab had been smashed in. The rotors had also been shredded off.
“The debris was spread out about 50 to 70 yards in the field,” Rodriguez said.
The helicopter belonged to Morris AG Air & Sons of Yuma.
While the cause of the accident is not known yet, Rodriguez said the pilot told them that he was dusting fields before the crash happened and was about 50 feet in the air.
Rodriguez added that the gas and chemicals being carried by the helicopter was initially a concern. While the fuel tank did not rupture, he said some of the pesticide being used did leak out, however, it didn't pose any threat because it was diluted with water.
“It wasn't anything harmful. It wasn't a very big spill, not much at all,” Rodriguez said. “The helicopter was carrying a pesticide used to kill white flies.”
The road was closed off until about 8 a.m. while the Federal Aviation Administration investigated the accident and the owner cleaned up the small amount of escaped pesticide.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.