WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Split-second decisions and recent flight training are what a helicopter pilot said got him through a hard crash landing in the Northwood Village area of West Palm Beach Saturday.
Pilot John Berg said he was with a co-worker who was taking aerial photographs of a marina not far from where the crash happened. She had taken a few snapshots when something went wrong in the air. The chopper eventually crashed onto a home on Floral Avenue.
Berg said there were many thoughts passing through his mind before the crash.
"I don't want to die today. I don't want to die today," Berg said was one of the most prominent thoughts during his 25 second plummet to the neighborhood below. "I'm instantly trying to put the nose down to maintain my air speed."
He and passenger Emily Tandy found themselves in serious trouble in the air over the Northwood neighborhood when Berg said the engine in a two-seat Robinson 22 chopper lost power.
Berg said life or death decisions needed to be made instantly. He was searching for a place to land and headed for the pavement at Floral Avenue and 33rd Street. Suddenly, he saw power lines in his path.
"If I grab these wire lines with the landing gear, we would flip over and we would land on the roof and that would be fatal," he said.
Berg told his passenger to hold on tight as he came up with what he calls a 'plan B'. He saw the porch roof of the home of Nedra Obradovich.
"I saw the house with the small veranda on the roof and I decided to put the helicopter on the roof against the wall," he said.
He guided the troubled chopper right into Obradovich's second floor exterior wall. The force slammed the helicopter onto the porch roof and then back into a free-fall to the ground.
"Helicopter tilted down from the roof, landed on the side and we got beaten, beaten up," he said.
Dazed, but alive, Berg and Tandy were able to climb out. A cut on Berg's forehead and another laceration on his leg were the extent of the most serious injuries. Tandy suffered less serious injuries and the homeowner, who was inside at the time of the crash, was unharmed. In less than a minute, Berg said it was his recent training and his quick thinking that got him and his friend through the ride - and landing - of their lives.
Federal aviation investigators still have not identified an official cause of the crash. The pilot said he obtained his flying certification in May.
Berg said the fact that the training took place so recently is why he feels he and his passenger survived this crash. He said he looks forward to flying a helicopter again soon.
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