Nearly 100 feet from rush-hour traffic on Highway 101 near Embarcadero Road, a pilot approaching the Palo Alto Municipal Airport crash landed a Robinson R-22 helicopter about 4:45 p.m. Thursday, March 15.
She attempted an emergency landing and crashed into the Palo Alto Baylands Open Space Preserve after experiencing engine trouble, Palo Alto Police Department spokesman Lt. Zach Perron said. The helicopter landed on its side in 4 feet of water. It appeared to have significant damage, he said.
The pilot was able to exit the aircraft before emergency personnel arrived, Palo Alto Fire Battalion Chief Doug Conn said. Witnesses ran to help her after the copter went down, he added. The pilot was evaluated at the scene by firefighters and was treated for minor injuries. She refused transportation to a medical facility, he said.
Perron said 911 dispatch was flooded with calls about the downed helicopter and also received a call from the Palo Alto Airport tower control. Some reports said the crash had occurred on U.S. Highway 101.
"We had conflicting reports of where it was. We had cops and firefighters all over the area," he said. A police officer located the helicopter, he added.
The helicopter was located near the 2600 block of East Bayshore Road, just south of the Oregon Expressway loop, in thick cattails.
A 5-foot-long scrape across an earthen berm marked where the landing gear struck the ground before the plane entered the heavily vegetated area. Firefighters stretched a ladder across the berm and over the wetlands to reach the helicopter.
Perron said the fire department indicated no concerns about fuel leakage into the baylands. Conn said the pilot had rented the aircraft. The owner was charged with keeping an eye on the wreckage until it is removed from the site. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the aircraft is registered to Parker Helicopter LLC of Capitola. It was manufactured in 2007.
Perron and Conn said the pilot did an outstanding job of making the emergency landing.
"She is exceptionally lucky," Perron said. The pilot's name would not be released, he added.
The cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration, Perron said. A preliminary report could be available in one to two weeks, he added.