Saturday, August 2, 2008

Helicopter Lands On Okaloosa Island

This morning we were at a Jr Lifeguard competition on Okaloosa Island. As we were watching the kids compete a helicopter came in along the beach, really low. They aren't allowed to fly that low along the beach and because it was a helicopter flying at about eye level right in front of me, I started snapping pictures.


Just to my right is the Okaloosa Island Pier and the helicopter doesn't seem to be going up at all. By now everyone is looking at them and it really looked like he was going to fly right into the pier keeper's house. People started jumping up and running up away from the helicopter and umbrellas and chairs went flying from the rotor wash. The Island King was standing next to me and grabbed the camera (which is good because whenever something unexpected happens I tend to let the camera fall down around my neck while I gawk LOL) The pilot turned the helicopter around and then hovered there for a second Everyone managed to get out of the way except this poor woman. She huddled there literally underneath him.

We don't think the pilot ever saw her. I can't imagine how terrified she must have been and at this point it was too late for her to try and run.
The pilot came forward a little and then landed. Right there on a crowded beach with that woman still huddled on the ground right behind his tail. Everyone expected the pilot to turn the helicopter off and then come out saying he'd had engine failure or some mechanical problems but no, he sat there for about about 30 seconds and then lifted off again.

Meanwhile, there is a deputy sheriff in his beach truck and he comes flying up with his lights and sirens on and all of the lifeguards (the real ones, not the kids) are running towards the helicopter, yelling for everyone to get out of the way. See the pilot's arm? We found out later that he's smiling and waving at the deputy.
And then he flew off in the direction he came from.
The pilot and his passengers were smiling and waving to everyone as they flew off.
Needless to say, those of us on the beach were still in shock. We were so close that these pics were taken with our regular lense which has very little zoom. I think everyone there thought for sure he was going to crash and I know that woman huddled under him is probably still shaking.
The deputy spent a long time over there talking to her and I told the Island King that if that had been me I'd be screaming for that pilot's license. The Island King walked over to the deputy and told him that he had pictures of the whole thing if they needed them and the deputy said he was on his way to the airport right then to talk to the pilot so he didn't think he'd need them. About 45 minutes later we were watching more of the competition and the deputy came walking up. Turns out he does want those pictures after all and how soon can he have them. He must not have liked what the pilot had to say LOL
After the competition we came on home and put the images on a CD for him. We met the deputy at the local substation and I asked what possessed that pilot to pull a stunt like that. The deputy says the passenger had someone go out to the island and write
Will You Marry Me? in the sand and then hired the helicopter to take him and his girlfriend over to see it. The deputy said the pilot acted like he needed to get that close so she could see the writing. The deputy told him that as the pilot he knows that he's not supposed to fly under 500 feet and he's REALLY not supposed to land on a crowded beach. The deputy said "And he even had the nerve to wave at me as he lifted off". We got a picture of that. I don't know what's going to happen to the pilot but the FAA were at the airport talking to him and the deputy seemed to be really happy with the pictures we took. What I've posted here is only half of what we shot. We have an excellent picture of the pilot smiling at the crowd as he flew away and of course that picture of him hovering over that woman can't be good.

On our way to deliver the CD we were laughing and talking about having 27 8x10 color glossies and that we were off to see Officer Obie. All we needed were circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each picture LOL

So that was our exciting day at the beach. I'm glad that no one was hurt and I have to say I hope the FAA takes this guy's license away for along time.
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