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Sun, Apr 16, 2006

More Details Emerge On Michigan Helo Crash

R-22 "Just Dropped, Really, Really Fast" -- Eyewitness

Midafternoon Thursday, a public service/law enforcement flight came to an abrupt and tragic end when a Robinson R-22 Beta helicopter, N887BC "dropped out of the sky" and crashed in Washtenaw County, Michigan, near Zeeb Road and I-94 in Scio Township, about five miles west of Ann Arbor.

The two men on board, pilot Matt Tuttle, 28, and Chelsea, Michigan police chief Scott Sumner, 42, were killed. Tuttle was a Chelsea fire captain and a friend of Sumner's. Local TV WXYZ Channel 7 said that they were on the trail of an escapee from Macomb County, Michigan.

Eyewitness Tanja Shields of Ann Arbor described the crash to reporters: "It was almost like he knew something was wrong. He was going a little slower, no smoke, no weird noises...and all of a sudden it just dropped really, really fast. And all we hear is this big crash."

The red helicopter appeared to have plunged into the ground vertically, in a level attitude with little if any forward motion, and little rotation of the rotors, which were bent but not separated. The cabin of the craft was crushed vertically to a fraction of its height. There was no postcrash fire.

Tuttle volunteered his chopper when he heard the police were searching for the suspect.

The Associated Press reported that the 33-year-old suspect fled into the woods after a traffic stop on I-94, and that Tuttle and Sumner had often teamed up on similar cases before. Tuttle was also a reserve police officer with Sumner's department.

Sheriff's officers who witnessed the crash attempted CPR on the victims, but without success. They continued until paramedics arrived and pronounced the two men dead.

There was no word on what became of the suspect.

The helicopter was privately owned, according to media reports. The craft was registered to a business in Chelsea, "Matt's Move-All".

FAA and local authorities secured the scene. The accident will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Both men were lifelong residents of Chelsea, and were known to practically all the town's 5,000 citizens. Flags in the small town have been lowered to half-staff in mourning.

Aero-News extends our condolences to the families of the deceased.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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