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Canadian News Helo Crashes

MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA: A news chopper for Quebec’s TVA broadcast network crashed Wednesday near a busy thoroughfare, according to local media outlets. The pilot and the reporter aboard were both hospitalized. The pilot, Antoine Leger, was able to get out of the downed aircraft on his own. Reporter Rejean Leveille was trapped for over an hour with his legs crushed while firefighters cut him out of the wreckage. A mechanical failure is being blamed for forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing just moments after take-off.

“Our pilot did a marvelous job, just landing the chopper this morning. Having both guys come out alive, I think it was a miracle,” said TVA Vice President Serge Fortin at a press conference.

The chopper, a four-year-old Robinson R-44, was refurbished last year, the Montreal Gazette reported. The wreckage of the chopper was hauled away to Ottawa to be examined by Canadian transportation authorities.

The TVA helo is the second chopper to go down in Quebec gathering news this year, Canwest News Service said. A 44-year-old videographer for CTV was killed in August in a private helo rented by the station to film the damage left by a tornado in the Laurentian Mountains.

In the United States, the National Transportation and Safety Board set new limits on news choppers early this year as a result of a 2007 mid-air collision between two helos in Pheonix. Helicopters gathering news for KTVK-TV and KNXV-TV collided while covering a police chase on the ground. The pilots and videographers on both aircraft were killed. The NTSB voted unanimously to recommend that pilots focus entirely on flying the aircraft rather than doing so while delivering live narration.

Around 140 news choppers operate in the United States, the NTSB estimates. Around 200 people are injured in helo crashes each year, it says.

No major ENG chopper incidents were reported in the United States in 2009, though a news chopper belonging to ABC affiliate WTVD-TV raised ire in suburban Raleigh, N.C., on Black Friday. Residents of an area near a shopping mall said the chopper was hovering over the neighborhood before 7 a.m. to get shots of the mall opening. The station’s president and general manager said the aircraft was within the altitude limits defined by the Federal Aviation Administration.