Helicopter crashes at Cleveland race

Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2005

CLEVELAND (AP) — A helicopter pilot walked away uninjured after crashing on an airport runway only a few hundred yards from thousands of racing fans attending the Grand Prix of Cleveland on Saturday.

The helicopter's back rotator blade was broken off and part its body was sheered away as the pilot brought it down at the westernmost end of Burke Lakefront Airport at 12:58 p.m., about a quarter of a mile from the nearest spectators. The crash coincided with a multicar accident on the first lap of a Champ Car developmental race.

Moments before, the helicopter had flown over crowded grandstands lining one of the main runways.

Airport officials said the pilot of the privately chartered helicopter experienced an equipment malfunction during flight but was able to maintain control. Airport commissioner Khalid Bahhur said it was too early to determine what went wrong.

The helicopter posed no threat to the airport or racing activities, officials said. No one else was in the helicopter, and there were no injuries on the ground.

Dave Geall, a photographer from Toronto, was eating lunch when he noticed the helicopter hovering overhead on the hazy, humid afternoon.

''I saw him come in and I wasn't sure if he was showing off or what,'' Geall said. ''Then he swung around twice and it came down on its back rotator first before it bounced back up onto its landing gear.''

The race has been held on the airport's runways and taxiways since 1982. Burke Airport is used primarily for smaller planes and news helicopters.

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