Preliminary information suggests a medical helicopter that crashed while carrying an infant girl and three others in Delaware County went down as a result of an accident, federal investigators said Wednesday.
Flight data shows the EC135 helicopter was heading in a “laser-straight course line” at a steady speed and altitude until it reached the Drexel Hill area of Upper Darby Township, where witness and video evidence “describes the helicopter maneuvering erratically” before it crashed in front of a church Tuesday afternoon, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Brian Rayner said.
NBC10 obtained Ring video showing the crash.
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On the flight were the girl, the pilot, identified by a family member as Daniel Moore, a flight medic and a nurse, Rayner said. Moore was “seriously” injured, but the others were uninjured, he said. The girl was taken to CHOP by ambulance after the incident.
“Right now, this is strictly a safety investigation. All the evidence we have at this point supports an accident,” Rayner said.
Rayner said Moore is currently unable to speak to investigators as he continues to recover.
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"His medical condition precludes him from speaking to us any time in the immediate future," Rayner said. "He's doing well. His prognosis was good but he's very uncomfortable."
Moore's father told NBC10 his son suffered substantial injuries to his ribs, spine and chest and will undergo surgery on Thursday.
The flight was heading to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and coming from Chambersburg, a borough in southcentral Pennsylvania that is located west of where the crash happened, he added.
Emergency officials at the scene said the four people aboard were able to escape the wreckage before firefighters and police arrived.
“While it looks very dramatic and there is clearly significant damage, the occupiable space inside the aircraft is remarkably intact,” Rayner said.
The helicopter came down next to the front steps of the Drexel Hill United Methodist Church. At the time of the crash, there were children at a daycare inside the church, Upper Darby Fire Department Chief Derrick Sawyer said.
The church appeared to be spared any damage in the immediate aftermath of the crash, as did numerous houses across the street.
Vickie Porter and Nicole Razzi were working at an office nearby when they heard what Porter described as “an ungodly noise.” Their boss shouted that a helicopter had crashed, at which point some of the workers ran to the scene.
Porter saw a man in what appeared to be hazardous materials suit, who may have been on the aircraft at the time it plunged, taking people out of the chopper.
“When it first went, there was nothing but smoke and fire, and then all of a sudden it cleared. You could see the hazmat guy. They saw the gasoline pouring out of it. How that thing did not explode is beyond me,” Porter said.
Alexa Sheeran, who lives a few houses from the church, snapped a picture of the frantic moments after the crash.
Sheeran’s photo shows a woman cradling what appears to be the baby as she runs away from the wreckage. Others, including an off-duty EMT, also ran to help.
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said he was surprised the crash wasn’t as bad as he initially feared.
“I expected a complete catastrophe. You think fire, explosions, you know, injuries. And when I got here, to my surprise it wasn’t as bad as I expected,” he said.
Rayner said he was confident investigators would be able to piece together what happened after looking at the helicopter’s flight data and talking to the people onboard.
Wednesday evening, crews removed the wreckage and moved it to a location in Delaware for a more detailed examination, a tedious process that officials say may take up to a year.