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Chopper that fell to earth needs checkup

By Jeff Chorney STAFF WRITER

CASTRO VALLEY -- Engineers will have to check out the helicopter damaged in a weekend crash before it returns to the skies, said Lt. Matt Madison, of East Bay Regional Parks police.

Because the craft is one of two choppers "vital" to park operations, grounding it will put a big dent in patrol, rescue and fire suppression, Madison said.

The helicopter, an Aerospatiale AS350B, crash-landed Saturday in a backyard on Los Reyes Avenue in the unincorporated Ashland area. While flying at 600 feet, pilot Bill Probets reported a "flame-out," meaning the chopper's jet engine conked out while it was in the air, Madison said.

At the time of the crash, the helicopter was on patrol for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which rents airtime because it does not have its own craft. Besides the pilot, sheriff's Deputy Bob Brock and a third, unidentified county employee on a ridealong were on board, Madison said.

The helicopter sustained visible damage in the hard emergency touchdown but, more worrisome to Madison, it is possible that the craft's airframe was cracked or bent, he said.

"We have to have the frame inspected with a fine-tooth comb," Madison said. For that, the helicopter will have to be trucked to a facility operated by its manufacturer. Madison did not know how long that evaluation will take.

If it does not pass inspection and cannot be repaired, the helicopter will be grounded, Madison said. It would cost $1.6 to 1.8 million to replace, he added.

The parks district bought the silver, green and blue helicopter 1[1/2-- years ago. The two parks helicopters are budgeted to fly a combined 1,400 hours each year, Madison said. The Sheriff's Office rents the copter for six to eight hours each week.

-- Doris (, March 20, 2001


Sorry, bad headline...the copter needed a check before it fell to earth, most definately!

-- Doris (, March 20, 2001.

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