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Pilot dies in helicopter crash

helicopter crash

Angela Reinhardt / Photo Pickens County Sheriff’s Capt. April Killian of the Criminal Investigation Division documents the helicopter crash in Talking Rock Tuesday. The site is located alongside a stretch of large power lines where the pilot was trimming trees.


[Story Updated Wednesdsay, March 6 at 9:50 a.m.]

        A helicopter that was trimming trees in Talking Rock Tuesday, March 5 crashed in the woods off Ellijay Road. The pilot, Johnny Kent, was air lifted to Grady Memorial Hospital and died as a result of his injuries at 5:44 p.m. that day 

There were no other parties inside the aircraft at the time of the accident. A witness at the scene said the pilot appeared to be conscious when he was  being assisted by emergency workers, before he was sent to Atlanta.

Pickens Sheriff’s Capt. Kris Stancil said at this early stage in the investigation the cause of the incident is undetermined. 

A witness interviewed at the scene was an employee of Pike Electric, a company that was also in the area doing maintenance work around the powerlines. The man said he  had seen the helicopter working all morning along the lines. He told the Progress that at one point a gust of wind came through, and soon after the aircraft was on the ground, but he was not certain the wind caused the aircraft to crash. 

While clear and sunny, Tuesday was notably windy all morning into the afternoon.   

At the scene, property owner Kay Johnson said she was not home at the time of the crash but arrived shortly after. Johnson walked this reporter to the crash site, which was about a quarter mile into the woods. Johnson said the helicopter crashed into her husband’s deer stand before coming to rest on the ground. The multi-bladed saw used to trim trees was on the ground in front of the mangled helicopter, which was laying on its side, with the long pole that attaches the blades to the helicopter still suspended in the trees. 

The company that was contracted to trim the powerlines, Rotor Blade, had recently rented a hangar at the Pickens County Airport, according to airport manager Randy Thomason. He said the company had plans to be based from the airport for around three months. 

Thomason added that the company had been in town a few weeks, but due to poor weather had not flown many days. 

The airport manager said helicopter trimming of right-of-ways is not that uncommon, but “it is expensive.”

“It is actually a lot cheaper than sending out crews [to wooded areas],” he said. “A helicopter can do so much more in a day than a crew but it’s not cheap."

Thomason said the attachment to the helicopter has roughly an eight-foot aluminum pole that has six or eight two-foot blades attached to them.