A 30-year-old pilot escaped without injuries Sunday afternoon when his helicopter crashed in rugged terrain west of Shady Cove after helping douse a fire.
The pilot, Cody Seeger, was airlifted from the crash site by Brim Aviation, but he declined medical treatment. Other than a ripped jumpsuit, Seeger appeared uninjured.
After being asked how he felt walking away from a helicopter crash, Seeger responded, "pretty good." The Bell UH1H "Huey" helicopter belongs to Columbia Basin Helicopters Inc. in Baker City.
Jackson County sheriff's Deputy Jeff McGrath said the pilot was headed back to Grants Pass when the crash occurred.
"As he was flying back, it started rattling and losing pressure, and then it went down," McGrath said. "This could be a lot worse."
The helicopter landed on its side in a forested hillside several miles to the west of Rogue River Drive. Only a Brim Aviation helicopter was able to spot the crash site, eventually airlifting the pilot out to safety.
McGrath said the trees surrounding the crash site may have softened the impact, preventing a harder landing.
Good visibility aided rescuers in finding the pilot, but the crash occurred so quickly the pilot didn't get a chance to pick a flatter area to land, McGrath said.
Craig Morrison, chief pilot for Brim, said the pilot initially indicated he wanted to walk out.
Eventually, rescue officials persuaded Seeger that he should be airlifted out, landing next to a large pond near a house in a remote area to the west of Rogue River Drive.
Reviewing a video of the crash site, Morrison and other Brim pilots found the helicopter was remarkably intact considering how and where it landed.
The tail section still was attached to the helicopter, and the cockpit didn't look badly damaged.
Morrison said pilots are always reviewing the landscape underneath them just in case there's a problem.
"What we're always looking for is open spots where we could land," he said.
The terrain was so rugged sheriff's deputies couldn't get to the scene of the crash with all-terrain vehicles. After the rescue, a bulldozer eventually was brought in to clear a trail so that deputies could investigate the scene and take photos.
The National Transportation and Safety Board also will investigate the crash, but deputies expected the helicopter would have to be airlifted out of the crash site by a heavy-lift helicopter.
Dave McCarty, president of Columbia Basin Helicopters, declined to be interviewed.
According to its website, the company has three Bell UH1H helicopters that are equipped with additional features, including a 323-gallon tank for firefighting. In addition, the company has one Hiller 12E Soloy helicopter and one Bell OH-58A helicopter.
Bob Miller, Fire District No. 4 chief, said the helicopter had dropped water on a grass clipping fire at Joseph Stewart State Park.
Miller said the fire likely could have started because a camper inadvertently dumped ash in the grass clipping pile. He said a bulldozer was sent up later to take the pile apart so the embers wouldn't spread. The cause of the fire still is being investigated.
The Joseph Stewart park fire call came in at 2:26 p.m.
Another fire burned almost 5 acres near 23611 Highway 62, and the call came in at 1:44 p.m., Miller said.
He said fire crews still were mopping up the fire into the evening Sunday. The cause of that fire is unknown, Miller said.
Overall, it was a busy weekend for Miller's firefighters. On Saturday, around noon, a hunter fell out of his tree stand near Abbot Creek in the Prospect area. Miller said the hunter suffered a broken leg and was flown to Providence Medford Medical Center for treatment.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.