MONROE, N.C. – A pilot was killed but his lone passenger survived when their helicopter crashed Thursday in a southern North Carolina field, rattling nearby homes and sending a ball of smoke into the air, officials and witnesses said.
The helicopter clipped a power line but it wasn't clear if it was already on the way down when it did, said City of Monroe spokesman Pete Hovanec.
Mark Bartlett, 46, of Mint Hill died in the crash. Justin Travis was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment but was awake and conscious, Hovanec said. FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said Bartlett was the pilot and that the OH-6A helicopter crashed at 10:35 a.m.
Resident Katrina Sturgis said an explosion jarred her home and she went outside and saw a large cloud of smoke coming from the field across the street. Her husband called 911.
"I heard a loud boom, and the house jarred, and the lights flickered," the 80-year-old said.
The FAA said the helicopter was registered to Charlotte Helicopters Flight Academy, a business under Travis' name. A phone number listed for the company was disconnected.
The helicopter sat mangled and leaning on its side in the middle of a large field on the western side of the community about 20 miles southeast of Charlotte and emergency crews were assessing the scene. The helicopter crashed just a few hundred yards from the Central Academy of Technology and Arts, a magnet high school.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to (Bartlett's) family," Hovanec said. "It's a true tragedy when something like this happens."
The FAA was continuing to investigate.
Duke Energy Corp. said power was briefly knocked out to about 4,000 customers, but restored quickly.