COPIAGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A teacher and student pilot walked away unscathed after their helicopter crash landed in a residential area of Long Island.
The Robinson R22 helicopter attempted to make an emergency landing at Buena Vista Boulevard and East Alhambra Avenue in Copiague just before noon Wednesday after reporting engine problems, as reported by CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
Neighbors found the chopper on its side. They were amazed that the 26-year-old pilot and flight instructor, Joseph Lombardo, and his 27-year-old student, Ming Chen, weren’t injured.
Lombardo’s confident words could be heard in a cell phone video of the inside of his downed helicopter moments after the crash landing.
Witness: How did you not hit those wires?
Lombardo: ‘Cause I saw them.
Witness: Geez dude, how long you been flying?
Lombardo: Three years.
Vincent Pellegrini told CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco that he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I looked to my left and I saw the helicopter right next to me, thought I was just seeing things. I saw it go right behind the trees, under the power lines, and tip right over,” he said.
Exclusive surveillance video shows when the helicopter fell out of the sky.
Witness Laura St. Angelo heard the helicopter motor sputtering and saw the aircraft coming down.
“It was petrifying,” she told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall. “I heard crash, boom.”
Air traffic controllers knew there was trouble-from the Mayday Transmission southwest of Republic Airport in Farmingdale.
“It’s a miracle it didn’t hit a house, a miracle that they both were able to get out alive, that men that were working on a house ducked when the helicopter came over them — they ran for it,” St. Angelo said.
The teacher was operating the helicopter at the time and many at the scene are calling him a hero.
“I did see his face with that fear and I would like to hug that man,” St. Angelo said. “I’m just so grateful that he’s alive, both of them.”
Lombardo managed to land the chopper in the intersection, avoiding any homes, electrical wires, or passing cars below.
The helicopter is owned by Academy of Aviation. The company says the experienced instructor was returning from a two-hour lesson when mechanical problems shut down the engine. The pilot is being hailed a hero for managing to find a place where no one would get hurt.
No injuries were reported on the ground.
The FAA and NTSB are investigating.