No injuries resulted from an emergency landing on a CT beach by a helicopter whose pilot was disoriented by low visibility in fog. Witnesses at the scene reported the aircraft flying low over the Thames River at approximately 1600 EDT before landing on a private beach adjacent to the Thames Yacht Club.
According to Capt. Steve Crowley of the New London Police Department, the aircraft was en route to Groton-New London Airport and got lost in the thick fog. “He was trying to find any place to land once he got fogged in and couldn’t see,” said Crowley. Information on the identity of the pilot or passenger was not available, although bystanders said the passenger was a fighter competing in a mixed martial arts competition at the Mohegan Sun Arena nearby. The casino reportedly sent a limousine to pick up the passenger but he had already left the scene in another vehicle.
The Groton Patch reports that Michael Peterson, steward of the Thames Yacht Club estimated the helicopter flew 10 or 20 feet over the building heading upriver. When it turned and began flying downriver Peterson tried to signal the pilot. “I was waving at him because he was going right toward the Pfizer buildings, and they’re pretty tall,” he said. Another witness, Don Gesswin said the helicopter had a close call with the mast of a sailboat moored in the river. “It was so close to a mast that we actually hid behind a boat, because we thought it was going to hit it,” said Gesswin.
The New London Fire Department was first to respond, and Battalion Chief Keith Nichols said “The pilot was being very evasive and refusing to answer any questions.” The aircraft involved was an Aerospatiale A-Star owned by Meridian Consulting I Corp Inc. of Kearny, N.J. It is part of the fleet of Liberty Helicopters, a charter company operating out of New York City. A spokesman for the FAA said that the aircraft would likely have to stay on the beach until it could be examined for any possible damage.