Two people were killed Monday morning when a fire rescue helicopter crashed into an apartment complex in Pompano Beach, Florida.
The tragedy occurred shortly after Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue Captain Terryson Jackson and two others from the division boarded the helicopter around 8:41 a.m.
The three were responding to a medical call coming from a traffic crash when their aircraft sustained an in-flight emergency, the sheriff's office said in a report. The crew put out a distress call within two minutes, but Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said the mechanical issues became too severe, causing them to crash into a small apartment building just five minutes after becoming airborne.
Captain Jackson became trapped and died, as did an adult female who was inside the apartment complex when the crash occurred.
The two other crew members, BSFR Pilot Daron Roche and BSFR Firefighter Paramedic Mikael "Mike" Chaguaceda, managed to crawl away from the wreckage. They and two civilians were hospitalized with injuries, but all are now in fair condition, the report said.
Cell phone video captured the moment the helicopter went down. It was shown trailing smoke before spiraling down from the sky with its tail on fire.
At a press conference, Tony said there was "no rhyme or reason" why the two crew members and two civilians on the ground survived, but Captain Jackson and the female victim did not. He appeared emotional talking about the loss of the 50-year-old leader, who had served with BSFR for 19 years and was posthumously promoted to Battalion Chief.
"Terryson was a rock star. He was one of the best of us, one of the brightest," Tony said. "He bled this profession inside and out, all day long. The type of effort and commitment he had for this community — impeccable."
The sheriff said in the few short minutes the helicopter was airborne, the flight crew still notified another emergency department to head to the scene of the traffic crash, as they knew they weren't going to make it.
"As they were fighting for their life, they were worried about somebody else's," Tony said.
The team hasn't lost a firefighter in the line of duty in some time, Tony said. Because of this and the nature of the incident, he said there are many assessments coming to find the cause and to prevent another situation like it from happening again.
As of now, Tony has grounded all other aircraft in the office's fleet until they are all reinspected. Members of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are also assisting in the investigation into the crash.
Motorists have been asked to avoid the North Dixie Highway and Atlantic Boulevard area as first responders continue to work on the scene.
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