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Helicopter crashes off Bell Island; couple picked up by fishing boat
A helicopter crashed Tuesday afternoon off Bell Island, between Crane Island and Shaw Island's Broken Point.
A couple — the pilot and passenger — were rescued by a fishing boat and taken to the Neck Point dock, near their home, neighbor Tifni Twitchell Lynch said.
Three boats, including the Sheriff's Boat Guardian, were en route to the scene at 2:30 p.m. Orcas Island EMS was dispatched to the scene and the sheriff's dive team was put on notice. The helicopter was reported as upside down in the water.
Here's the story as it unfolded:
2:39 p.m.: An individual who was standing on top of the helicopter in the water is reportedly on board a boat that went to the area.
There were two people on board the helicopter; both are out of the helicopter. A line has been attached to the helicopter for tow.
Orcas Island EMS is staging at the ferry landing. The U.S. Coast Guard is on the scene.
2:46 p.m.: Vessel Assist is being called to tow the helicopter to shore.
2:56 p.m.: Tifni Twitchell Lynch said the couple in the helicopter are home. They live on Shaw Island. "Everybody is OK," said Lynch, a friend of the couple, saying she had agreed not to disclose the couple's names.
"They are both in a state of shock, really cold and wet, but they are alive and OK."
2:59 p.m.: The U.S. Coast Guard has cancelled its "pon pon," a notice of a boat in trouble or a person in the water. It's a notice to all boaters to help if they can.
"Both people are safely recovered," a Coast Guard radio broadcast reported.
3:02 p.m.: The Shaw Island couple that survived today's helicopter crash off Broken Point do not require medical attention. They will be going by boat to watch as Vessel Assists tows their helicopter.
3:25 p.m.: The helicopter has been turned over to commercial tow.
5:23 p.m.: Sheriff Bill Cumming issued the following statement about the helicopter crash.
At approximately 2:30 p.m., a small Bell Helicopter 47 equipped to land in the water flipped over in Wasp Passage close to Bell Island. The helicopter was manned by a man and a woman. They reported that they had switched on a heater for the carburetor which stalled the engine. They felt they had enough distance to auto rotate to the water's surface, but hit at an angle and flipped over. Neither occupant had an injury and they both declined medical attention.
Patrol vessels from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as several private vessels in the area responded. The pilot and passenger were taken aboard a private vessel, and the helicopter was turned over to a private marine assistance company. The FAA and the NTSB were notified and will release any further press releases.
— Editor's note: The accompanying map shows Bell Island, where the helicopter went down (point A), and the Neck Point dock, where the couple were taken by fishing boat (point B)