Elizabeth Dunbar and Tim Nelson
Minnesota Public Radio
MAPLEWOOD — A mosquito control helicopter crashed in a Maplewood neighborhood on Wednesday morning, killing the pilot, authorities said.
The helicopter belonged to Scott's Helicopter Services, which contracts with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District. The district confirmed the helicopter was in the area to release a soil bacterium that kills mosquito larvae.
The Maplewood Police Department is assisting the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board with the investigation, said police spokeswoman Kerry Crotty. Acting Maplewood Police Chief Dave Kvam confirmed the pilot did not survive the crash, which happened shortly after 8 a.m.
NTSB officials said they expected to release more information about the crash later Wednesday.
Pictures from the scene show the helicopter crashed into the side of a garage, and witnesses described a large fire.
Rod Andrew Wilson lives nearby and said he heard the helicopter sputter.
"Me and my son were in the sunroom with the windows open and we heard the helicopter have a little problem, and then we heard a whump and then a big whump and then a couple seconds after that, a black cloud of smoke," he said.
Neighbors grabbed garden hoses to fight flames after the crash until firefighters arrived, said Tambra Thomas, who witnessed the crash.
Thomas said she had just woken up when she heard a helicopter in close range. She went to the window and saw it struggling to climb in the air.
"Then it did a nose dive. Hit the ground," Thomas said.
There have been at least two other crashes involving helicopters from Scott's Helicopter Services since 2010.
A pilot walked away from a crash in cornfield near New Sweden in Nicollet County on July 28, 2011. A 68-year-old pilot from was killed in a July 24, 2010, crash near Rochester. Both pilots were hired to dust fields.