Local Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing After Clipping Tower

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A local medical helicopter made an emergency landing in San Antonio Sunday after clipping a cell phone tower.

Photos provided to the San Antonio Express-News by Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighters shows PHI AirMedical, now flying in partnership with St. Joseph Hospital in Bryan, laying on mattresses at San Antonio International Airport, where it made a cushy and safe landing early Sunday morning.

A PHI spokesperson tells the newspaper the chopper was en route to the San Antonio Military Medical Center when it hit a tower at Interstate 35 and Binz-Engleman Road around 3:30 a.m. One of the two skids on the helicopter was knocked off.

The Bell 407 rotorcraft's crew of three was told to fly to the airport, where firefighters were waiting to help with a landing. After communicating, it was decided that mattresses could be used to cushion the touch down.

“He knew if he landed, that he would crash,” SAFD Capt. Kevin Campbell told the newspaper of his conversation with the pilot. “He suggested mattresses, and I told Engine 23 to grab three or four mattresses from the dorm. We also brought out weights from our weight room to hold the mattresses down.”

Once AirMedical safely landed, a patient on board was taken to the hospital by another medical helicopter. No one was injured in the incident.

The aircraft has operated out of Coulter Air Field in Bryan, but earlier this year, it was announced it would be moved eventually to St. Joseph to coincide with the new partnership.

The drama brings to mind the tragic crash in June 2008, when PHI Air Med 12 went down in the Sam Houston National Forest in Walker County, killing all three Bryan-based crew members and a patient on board. Bad weather was cited as the cause.

In this case, the Federal Aviation Administration tells the Express-News it has launched an investigation. Part of the probe includes whether proper lighting was on the cell tower.