Kernersville, NC Helicopter Crashes, Sep 1984
HELICOPTER CREW KILLED WHILE TRYING TO RESCUE MAN FROM TOWER.
Kernersville, N.C. (AP) -- A pilot apparently failed to hear radio warnings just before his helicopter crashed during an attempt to rescue a worker trapped atop a 110-foot-high tower, officials said Wednesday. Both men aboard the craft were killed.
The worker also died after the helicopter was dispatched and minutes before it crashed Tuesday night, authorities said.
The helicopter's rotor struck one of the water tower supports at 350 spectators watched. The craft flipped onto the roof of a barber shop and apartment building.
Witnesses said they heard the rotor hit the support with a loud clicking sound, and some saw blue sparks fly from the blade. One town official put his hands to his face and gasped when he saw the crash.
"I don't know why he came down low," said Dr. Lew W. Stringer, Forsyth County's chief medical examiner who directed the rescue operation. "I don't know if there was something wrong with the radio, which was working earlier. The pilot didn't respond to the warnings. That's what was so frustrating."
Communications tapes showed rescue workers warned pilot THOMAS J. HAROSKI several times during the three minutes before the crash that he was getting too low, but HAROSKI didn't respond, Stringer said.
The demolition worker, CHARLES GLENWOOD TOMPKINS, JR., 19, of Lumberton, had been trapped more than 3 1/2 hours after his legs were crushed by a 20-foot piece of the support. TOMPKINS died at 9:48 p.m., four minutes before the crash occurred.
Stringer said he had requested the helicopter, which also has been used by Greensboro television station WFMY, as a last resort.
HAROSKI, 39, and rescue worker STEVE RICHEY, 34, told him there was enough light to see the tower and body clearly. Stringer said RICHEY had planned to lower a 75-foot rescue rope to two other rescue workers who had reached the body by climbing up the tower.
BRUCE HATTON of the Winston-Salem Rescue Squad and ALLEN MOCK of the Forsyth County Emergency Medical Service were strapped to the support just below the body when the helicopter crashed.
HATTON said he told HAROSKI over his radio to "get off the tower" seconds before the crash. He said he ducked as the rotor struck the support. He said he felt the tower vibrate from the impact and saw the bottom of the helicopter as it fell past him to the building.
TOMPKINS' body, suspended by a safety harness, was finally removed about 4 a.m. Wednesday by workers using a crane.
Daily Intelligencer Doylestown Pennsylvania 1984-09-27