washingtonpost.com Copter Crashes in River; 2 Die Craft Hit Something, Survivor Tells Rescuers By Allan Lengel, Martin Weil and Fred Barbash Washington Post Staff Writers Tuesday, January 11, 2005; 7:33 AM Authorities resumed their search this morning for one of two crew members police said died when a medical evacuation helicopter crashed into the Potomac River late last night near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Firefighters and police rescued one man from the water and recovered a single body just after the Life Evac helicopter went down shortly after 11:00 p.m. several hundreds yard off the National Harbor development in Prince George's County. Authorities expressed no doubt that the third crew member was dead. Life Evac specializes in transporting patients from one medical facility to another. Authorities said it was returning from the Washington Hospital Center to its base in Stafford County, about 40 miles south. No patient was said to be on board at the time. Maryland State Police Sgt. Billy Dunston, who was patrolling in the area, told television interviewers that he "observed a helicopter flying unusually low past the construction equipment," near the bridge. "I didn't think anything of it until a citizen advised me that a helicopter had crashed into the water," he said. The witness was able to pinpoint the area where the chopper went into the water, Dunston said, which helped rescuers do their work more quickly. The survivor was found in the water clinging to the tail section of the craft, according to Alan Etter, a spokesman for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. Authorities said the man had numerous injuries but was able to talk to his rescuers. Depending on the tide, the water in the area ranges from knee-deep to shoulder-deep. The survivor is at the Washington Hospital Center. One body was removed from the water shortly after the crash, said Maryland State Police Col. Thomas E. Hutchins at a televised news conference this morning. Prince George's County Fire and EMS Capt. Chauncey Bowers said divers would expand their search for the second body this morning. None of the three occupants of the helicopter was identified immediately, and no cause of the crash had been determined. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were en route to the scene this morning. Several large cranes jut skyward near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which is being renovated. Hutchins said he did not know whether the cranes played any role in the crash. A Web site for the helicopter service said it was affiliated with Virginia Commonwealth University. Crews on each mission consist of one flight nurse and a flight paramedic team. A spokesman for Air Methods Corp., of Denver, told Fox 5 news that it provided the helicopter, an EC 135, to the university. The chopper was less than a year old, the spokesman said. The two people who died were described by authorities as a man and a woman. The body apparently was located in the submerged wreckage by divers who were part of a vast turnout of police and fire departments that joined the search and rescue effort. Among those responding were the Maryland State Police, the D.C. Fire Department marine unit and units from the Alexandria and Prince George's County police and fire departments. A variety of helicopters take to the skies above the Washington area daily, for purposes that include law enforcement, search and rescue and medical evacuations. Many of them use the Potomac River as a principal north-and-south route to avoid flying over congested neighborhoods and to minimize noise. Last night's incident was the first crash of a medical services helicopter in recent memory. © 2005 The Washington Post Company Wanna kill these ads? We can help!