Penn State tailgate draws police helicopter that blows over tents, stirs debris

A state police helicopter brought in to break up a rowdy Penn State tailgate scene ended up adding to the chaos by blowing over tents and kicking up dangerous debris.

Pennsylvania State Police said Monday the helicopter was brought in after a a tailgate party with hundreds of revelers had gotten out of hand. Penn State was playing high-profile rival Ohio State.

One state trooper suffered a broken wrist while trying to arrest a man who allegedly struck a state police horse that had been summoned to break up a party, agency spokesman Ryan Tarkowski told the Associated Press.

Tarkowski told the AP that troopers on the ground were pulled back "in an effort to de-escalate the situation," and a helicopter arrived soon after, flying low over the crowd.

"The helicopter made an initial pass at a higher altitude, but [the] loudspeaker could not be...heard," Tarkowski said. "The second pass was lower to ensure people on the ground could hear the order to disperse. PSP helicopters may fly at an altitude that will best accomplish the mission at hand while keeping safety in mind."

Videos posted to social media show the helicopter flying low, and canopies and other debris getting knocked around by the low pass.


One witness, who said he was in the area when the helicopter arrived, told his car was scratched by debris and a female guest was cut on the face.

“Can you imagine if a helicopter sent debris that hit a horse and it got spooked and started trampling the kids? This could’ve been a tragedy," Scott Olson told the student-run news website. "If that helicopter had any type of accident, you would’ve had people shredded everywhere and cars on fire."

In a statement, university police said authorities typically don't "resort to these expanded interventions," but the helicopter was deployed "as another tool to compel the group to disperse and curb dangerous and unruly behavior."

"Following the use of the helicopter, the dangerous behaviors dissipated," police said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.