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Chopper down in Fenner

Chopper down

Joy riding in a storm, passengers crash land and avoid serious injury

By Willie Kiernan

In a swirl of snow as thick as a cloud, a helicopter with a pilot and three passengers traveling from Oneonta to Syracuse was forced to crash land in a field in Fenner Tuesday, Jan. 15 just after noon, just missing several windmills.

"It was fine and sunny in Cooperstown," said Joel Brown, one of the passengers.

Surrounded by windmills, the pilot attempted to land the aircraft and was only a few feet above the ground when a squall hit, flipping the chopper over. The four men miraculously were able to crawl out maybe a hundred yards from a wind turbine. Helicopter parts were strewn across the field.

Owner of Adkins Aviation of Cornelius, N.C., Mark Adkins was one of the passengers on board.

"When we hit the ground it was like the whole helicopter exploded around us," Adkins said.

One of the passengers, Carl Snyder of Huntersville, N.C., was taken to a Syracuse hospital with neck injuries. The others reported minor injuries.

"We were just looking at property," Brown said.

He vehicle was identified as a 2006 Robinson-44 II helicopter. The 7-year-old Fenner wind farm consists of 20 wind turbines. The scene was left intact as state troopers waited for the FAA to inspect the site which is standard procedure.

The pilot, Zachariah Bowers, is licensed to fly certain helicopters but didn't know there were windmills in the area, when the storm caught them by surprise. He intended to land in the cornfield before the white-out conditions became too thick. The windmills just added to the chaos.

"It looked like he was caught off guard," said State Police Capt. Francis Coots.

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