2 killed in Corning helicopter crash

Derrick Ek
The remains of a McDonnell Douglas 369D helicopter sit along the Chemung River after the chopper crashed Thursday in Corning.

A helicopter crashed shortly after noon Thursday next to the Chemung River in downtown Corning, killing both men on board.

The victims have not been identified, pending positive identification and notification of family.

The crash site was on the north bank of the river, near the East High expansion project at the end of Corning Boulevard.

The crew was inspecting power lines in the Corning area for NYSEG when the chopper became entangled in some power lines near the end of Corning Boulevard, causing the crash, said Corning Fire Chief John Tighe.

The small black helicopter exploded when it hit the ground, and both men were killed instantly, Tighe said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Chief Tighe said the helicopter, a McDonnell Douglas 369D, belonged to Haverfield Aviation Inc., based in Gettysburg, Pa. The company describes itself on its website as a leading provider of power line inspection and maintenance services in the U.S. and abroad. Authorities believe the pilot worked for Haverfield Aviation and was from outside the area, and that the passenger was a NYSEG employee who lived in the Watkins Glen area.

“NYSEG is deeply saddened by this tragic accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and co-workers of the two men who were killed in today’s crash,” said Clayton Ellis, NYSEG spokesman, in a statement.

“We are cooperating with the authorities that are investigating the crash,” Ellis said.

When the helicopter clipped the power lines, it briefly knocked out power to large portions of the city.

Several wires were dangling at the scene, which was cordoned off by yellow police tape. Crews later removed the dangling lines.

Corning city police and firefighters, New York State Police, Steuben County sheriff’s deputies, and Rural/Metro Ambulance were at the scene, along with Steuben County Coroner Al Lewis. Crews from NYSEG also responded. The Painted Post Fire Department and Steuben County Emergency Services assisted.

Another helicopter, which appeared to be from Haverfield Aviation, landed near the scene later Thursday afternoon with two men aboard, who both headed to the crash site.

Zach Sullivan, who lives on Corning Boulevard near the crash site, said he was home sick from school, and was taking a nap when he was awakened by a loud boom.

“First I looked out in the backyard, but then I heard a knock on the front door, and it was a jogger, and he told me to call 911, that a helicopter had hit power lines and crashed.”

After calling 911, Sullivan ? a junior at Corning East ? went outside and saw flames and black smoke rising high into the air.

“It was a big, big explosion. It shook my house. Pretty crazy,” he said, comparing it to the natural gas-related home explosion that rocked the Houghton Plot neighborhood in early August.

The crash took down a power line cable that stretched across the river to the levee outside the World Kitchen plant, and firefighters and NYSEG crews were working there, too.

Workers at World Kitchen and Corning City Hall said they ran outside after hearing the crash and saw the flames. Onlookers stood all over the city, on both sides of the river. A portion of Corning Boulevard was closed down, and police were guarding the area.

A woman who lives on Hickock Road in East Corning - who asked to be identified only as Diane told The Leader she saw the helicopter minutes before the crash, flying along the power lines behind her house. Her dog barked at them, and she waved to the men aboard, and they waved back, she said.

Although they were flying very low, nothing seemed to be amiss, she said. She heard the crash on the police scanner a few minutes later, and went to the scene to inform police that there had been two men aboard.

“It’s very sad,” she said.

Emergency responders surround the crash site.