'A miracle': Pilots fortunate to survive helicopter crash on B.C.'s Bowen Island

Two pilots were lucky to walk away with scrapes and bruises after their helicopter came crashing down into a wooded area of Bowen Island on Friday morning.

Witness video shows the Bell 212 chopper spinning out of control and losing altitude moments before it crashed near Mt. Gardner Road at around 10 a.m.

The mangled wreckage was left caught in some trees.

Tony Mainwaring, who rushed to the crash site after the helicopter went down, said it was very windy on the island Friday.

"(The pilots) said they knew they were going to hit some turbulence. I guess they didn't realize how much turbulence," Mainwaring said.

"They were just trying to find a safe place to land, shut everything down."

Mainwaring said he first noticed the helicopter because it was making an unusual noise as it passed low over his house while he worked in the yard.

“At first I couldn’t believe it was actually going down. The impact was huge.” he said. “We just jumped in our vehicle and took some neighbours. We went up into the bush and started to search for it.”

He said he believes the pilots had intended to make an emergency landing in a clearing above his neighbour’s house.

“They were not in control enough to make it to the field. They went past it,” Mainwaring said. “They landed on a cliffside in a heavily wooded area.”

When he located the site, he noticed the helicopter had taken down a fir tree as it crashed into the forest, and he believes that tree helped prevent the aircraft from tumbling right over the cliff.

“When I got up there, there was a guy standing up there and I said, 'Are you the pilot?'” Mainwaring said.

He said the pilot told him everybody was fine.

“To me, it was a miracle, when I look at the crash site,” he said. “They were both out of the chopper, sitting down. They were banged up a bit, cuts and bruises, but to be able to walk out is a miracle.”

Bowen Island firefighters, Mounties, the Coast Guard, local paramedics and an air ambulance were all dispatched to the scene. B.C. Emergency Health Services said critical care paramedics transported the pilots back to the mainland in a water taxi.

They were then taken to hospital, but only as a precaution.

The Transportation Safety Board sent investigators to the accident site on Saturday morning to collect data. The aircraft was operated by Airspan Helicopters, according to preliminary data from the TSB.

Airspan chief pilot Hannibal Preto told CTV News his colleagues were doing well and were not expected to have any serious longterm physical injuries as a result of the crash.

The Sechelt-based chopper had been contracted by BC Hydro to help with transmission work on Cypress Mountain. The Crown utility told CTV News that no BC Hydro employees were on board at the time.