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Helicopter crashes on UNMH roof

Fire crews respond at the scene of a helicopter crashed on top of University of New Mexico Hospital
Fire crews respond at the scene of a helicopter crashed on top of University of New Mexico Hospital on Wednesday evening. (Courtesy of KOAT-TV)
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —

A medical helicopter crashed atop the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque on Wednesday evening just after takeoff, injuring the pilot but not badly.

Two passengers were under observation and the pilot was listed in stable condition, UNMH officials said. There were no patients aboard.

The crash happened about 5:45 p.m.

Hospital spokesman Billy Sparks said the helicopter was departing after dropping off a patient. Immediately after takeoff, the aircraft began spinning and then crashed, he said. No UNMH employees or patients were injured in the incident, he said.

The tail of the helicopter that crashed on top of University of New Mexico Hospital

The tail of the helicopter that crashed on top of University of New Mexico Hospital hangs over the edge of the building Wednesday evening as firefighters look over the wreckage. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

The yellow helicopter, in video taken from KOAT-TV’s helicopter, could be seen lying on its side with its tail sticking over the edge of the multi-story building and firefighters on the roof.

The helicopter belongs to Petroleum Helicopters Inc., which contracts with the hospital to transport patients.

Federal Aviation Administration officials were investigating the crash, Sparks said.

Witnesses at the hospital said they felt a huge gust of wind and heard the helicopter crash on top of the hospital.

Jonathan Goss, 20, said he was in a dorm room and heard screeching. He looked out the window and saw black smoke pouring from the helicopter.

“In the movies, when a helicopter starts spinning out of control,” he said, “it sounded exactly like that.”

Witnesses said they saw a man rushing across the roof to the helicopter and sprinklers dousing the chopper. Firefighters arrived minutes later.

All lanes on Lomas Boulevard were closed from Yale to Girard as firefighters responded.

UNM spokeswoman Dianne Anderson said the hospital’s top two floors were evacuated as a precaution in case there was structural damage to the building, and patients there were moved within the hospital. The sixth floor is directly underneath the landing pad.

The hospital temporarily stopped accepting all but the most critically injured patients, Sparks said, but by 10 p.m. the hospital began accepting all patients but children without serious injuries.

Airlifted patients to UNMH, if there are any, will land at Johnson Field at UNM as federal investigators go through the scene. Sparks did not know when the landing pad would reopen.

Journal staff writers Dan McKay and Nicole Perez contributed to this report.

 

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