(UPDATE 2:30 p.m. Aug. 1: Identity of pilot and his condition were added to the story.)
The pilot of a downed crop-dusting helicopter sustained minor facial trauma that left him bloodied but largely uninjured after a crash north of Holtville on July 30, explained the pilot’s son, who is also the owner of the crop-dusting company.
“He’s back at home. He got some minor cuts and bruises, but he was back home yesterday (July 31),” said Amador Fernandez Jr., pilot/owner of A Farmer Service Corp. when he was contacted for an update on his father’s condition Aug. 1.
Pilot Amador Fernandez Sr., who was the only person on board during the crash, was transported to a San Diego-area hospital by ground ambulance purely as a precaution, Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva said July 31, but the pilot actually refused local medical transport and initially was driven to the El Centro Regional Medical Center emergency room by a co-worker after the 8:30 p.m. crash.
Amador Fernandez Jr. was on scene when the helicopter went down, but he couldn’t comment on what might have caused the crash because it is now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The helicopter crash occurred about one mile northeast of Holtville near Norrish Road where it intersects with Bridenstine Road, confirmed Silva.
“Bystanders” heard “the engine sputtering” before the 2006 Road Craft helicopter collided with a stack of haybales while dusting an alfalfa field, Silva explained.
He described the aircraft as a total loss and said the dusting company’s workers were on site removing the helicopter the morning of July 31.
Fernandez Jr. said his father crashed into the bales as he was attempting to safely land following engine trouble on a nearby dirt roadway, but he said the helicopter was going too fast and went into the bales instead.
Fernandez Jr. said his dad was just trying to survive.
Meanwhile, Silva said the helicopter was carrying a “low-grade pesticide” that was spilled in the area.
Imperial Irrigation District workers were at the site in the morning and reported that while about 20 gallons of pesticide did get spilled into and around an IID drain, there was “zero toxicity,” district spokesperson Robert Schettler said. Also, there was no damage to IID’s drainage system as a result of the crash.