At about 2 p.m. on Friday, a single-engine helicopter with Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours crash landed in La Cumbre Country Club’s parking lot after experiencing mechanical problems while completing a ride along the coast. The three passengers managed to get out of the copter just before it was consumed in flames. They were transported to Cottage Hospital with moderate injuries.
According to County Fire Department spokesperson Capt. Dave Zaniboni, the male pilot notified the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport tower, where the chopper is based, that he needed to make an emergency landing. The copter crashed into two vehicles in a maintenance area near a diesel and gasoline fueling station in the parking lot. Firefighters arrived on the scene and put out the fire quickly before it spread.
The helicopter was a 2001 Robinson R44 registered out of Riverside. The 260-horsepower machine seats four. The company has been offering various aerial views of Santa Barbara County seven days a week for about six years. Before that, the company operated a helicopter touring company in Oxnard.
A woman who answered the phone at Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours identified herself as the mother of the pilot. She said before hanging up, “I am already upset and worried about it so don’t ask me any questions about it.”
By Paul Wellman