Monday, August 3, 2009

FAA Begins Probe of Yacht's Helo Crash

LITTLE DEER ISLE, Maine — Four people escaped injury late Saturday afternoon when a small helicopter unexpectedly landed in the water near Little Deer Isle, an island off the Maine coastline.

According to Chris Barry, a search and rescue coordinator for the U.S. Coast Guard, the helicopter originated from the Lady Christine, a 185-foot luxury yacht that was docked in Bangor Maine all of last week and is spending the summer in New England.

None of the passengers was identified, but Barry said the owner of the yacht was the pilot. The owner was identified last week as Irvine Laidlaw, a Scottish billionaire and member of the British House of Lords.

Each passenger suffered only minor bumps and bruises, Barry said, and the helicopter was not significantly damaged.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the internationally registered helicopter made what it called a controlled landing using flotation devices shortly before 5 p.m. FAA spokeswoman Holly Baker said a lobster boat towed the undamaged helicopter to shore.

Baker said she doesn’t know where the helicopter was going or why it had to land in the water but the incident is under investigation. It wasn’t clear if the vessel was trying to land atop the yacht, which was in the nearby waters of Penobscot Bay and is equipped with a helipad.

Lady Christine is a frequent visitor to Charleston's Mega Dock during the bi-annual transit season push north in May and then south in October.

The Coast Guard also said several gallons of fuel spilled from the helicopter. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection was called to clean up and investigate the spill.

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