Helicopter crash 911 call was false alarm

A call came into 911 Thursday morning about a helicopter crash near the Ravenel Bridge. It was a false alarm and we know now it was a mosquito abatement helicopter flown by Charleston County Public Works. That chopper did not crash, but the way these helicopters operate often prompts similar calls.

The 911 caller says, “I was just coming across the Ravenel Bridge and there was a helicopter that looked like it took off from Patriot’s Point and as I was cresting the top of the bridge, it went down into the water.”

The operator asked, “Like it crashed into the water?”

The caller responded, “Yes.”

Multiple rescue agencies responded: fire, police, and the Coast Guard. Fortunately, what the caller saw was a mosquito control helicopter doing some routine inspections.

Charleston Fire Department Deputy Chief John Tippett says, “Those helicopters have, as part of their flight pattern, they go up and down very dramatically to people who are looking from other areas. And it can appear, because the helicopter dips below the tree levels that the helicopter had crashed and of course they move so fast that sometimes you don’t see them come back up.”

And that is exactly why the caller says she was sure the chopper was in the water.

The caller says, “It had gone across the bridge and then the nose part of it, the body part of it was kind of going down and of course I couldn’t see down on that side because it was on-coming traffic side, but I waited for it and it did not come back up on either side.”

Charleston County Mosquito Control says they do these inspections weekly during mosquito season and this is the way they have to operate to test standing water areas around the harbor.

Manager of Charleston County Mosquito Control, Frank Carson, says, “They have to obviously avoid obstructions, but when they land and these areas are close to the bridges they actually go to the ground because they have to use a dipper and physically dip water out of the standing water on the dredge spoil site.”

He says, by now, these inspections are usually finished for the year, but mosquito season is sticking around longer than normal.

Carson says, “It’s due to the flooding and because of the warmer temperatures that are carrying this late in the year. So we’re hoping for cooler temperatures.”

Deputy Chief Tippett says even though Thursday’s call was a false alarm, the fire department still encourages people to call 911 if they think they see an aircraft in distress.

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