The Renegade Rip

Copter comes down near BC

Jarrod M. Graham

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An evening at home was interrupted by a cacophony of screeches, booms and sirens for residents near Bakersfield College shortly before midnight Monday when a Kern County sheriff’s helicopter lost power during a patrol flight and made an emergency landing on Haley Street, west of the baseball field.

“I didn’t see it, I just heard it,” said Linda Mireles, who lives on the northwest corner of Haley and University Avenue. “I had come outside and moved the water because I’d been on jury duty during the day … and I went to bed.

“As soon as I got in bed, the helicopter was in my back yard, and I go, ‘Oh, they must be chasing somebody.’ Then, I heard the screech, and then I thought, ‘Oh.’ It sounded like some part hit the bottom or something, so it must have been when they screeched on the street.”

The helicopter was on its way to Oildale to check on a possible carjacking when the trouble started, said Sgt. Jess Baker, head of the sheriff’s Air Support Unit.

“They heard what sounded like a loud boom,” which preceded a vibration in the craft, he said. The pilots started searching for a place to land when they heard a second boom a few seconds later, which caused the engine to fail.

The pilot in command, George McNinch, turned toward BC, hoping to land the helicopter in one of the campus’s empty parking lots as it lost altitude, a sheriff’s news release said. He overshot the campus, but he was able to put down on Haley Street, near the southwest corner of the college.

McNinch and co-pilot Norm Canby were not hurt, and the helicopter received minimal damage, Baker said.

“I thought it was just a helicopter flying down too close,” said Joey Mullen, 15, who lives just off Haley on the south corner of Telegraph Avenue.

“It sounded like it was right on our roof, and then I don’t know. Something had to be wrong because it was loud. All my blinds were moving back and forth, and then I heard it just hit the ground. And then, a whole bunch of sirens came up and then I came outside.”

Sheriff’s pilots go through extensive training to prepare for emergencies, Baker said.

The Sheriff’s Department has launched a joint investigation with the National Transportation and Safety Board to find the cause of the malfunction. Tealeye Cornejo, an NTSB air safety investigator, said that the helicopter will be inspected. “We look at what we call man, machine and environment,” she said.

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The news site of Bakersfield College
Copter comes down near BC