A helicopter crash at Sacramento Executive Airport in California is being blamed on an unknown thief.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the crash on Thursday, adding that they “don’t yet know how many people were on board or their conditions.”
In a statement, the FBI added that they were investigating “the theft of an aircraft” in association with the Sacramento Police Department. It added that the crash “caused damage to multiple aircraft at Sacramento Executive Airport.”
“During the early morning hours of March 15, 2023, Sacramento Police Department officers responded to the 6100 block of Freeport Blvd following reports of helicopters being broken into, including one that appeared to have been operated resulting in a collision,” added the FBI statement.
“Upon arrival on scene Sacramento Executive Airport, officers located a helicopter that had been operated, and was involved in an incident that caused damage to multiple aircraft,” it continued.
“This investigation is ongoing, and the FBI and Sacramento Police Department continue to work collaboratively to investigate the incident and locate the subjects involved.”
A thief crashed a chopper at Sacramento Executive Airport after breaking into multiple helicopters overnight, police said. Here's a look at the wreckage.— kcranews (@kcranews) March 15, 2023
More >> https://t.co/rdB8K0yWDh pic.twitter.com/mPMGAnUKyJ
Sacramento police told ABC News that the unnamed suspect broke into the airport and attempted to start four helicopters during the incident.
Local news outlet KCRA 3 added that the would-be crook then apparently lost control of a Bell 429 and crashed it inside the airport perimeter, before fleeing the scene.
The Sacramento Bee added that police arrived at the airport to discover the helicopter laying on its side with major damage incurred including the shearing of the aircraft’s rotor blades,
A photographer for KCRA 3 on the scene also said the “tail boom was cracked and the rotors were smashed.” He added that the debris appeared to span “hundreds of yards on the tarmac.”
Destruction of an aircraft is considered a federal felony. Special Agent Sean Reagan told KCRA 3 that a “combination of evidence collected, witness information and surveillance video” had helped them to identify a person of interest, who the FBI is now actively seeking.
The outlet added that Reagan would not say if the person of interest is connected to the airport or the crashed helicopter, which is owned by Capitol Helicopters. The motive behind the attempted helicopter heist also remains unclear.
“If someone wanted to take an aircraft for a joyride, someone who wanted to take an aircraft to do some other criminal activity or damage to other property, terrorism would be at the other end of the scope,” Reagan told KCRA 3.
“Sometime early this morning several helicopters operated by our company were vandalized by an individual unknown to us, and one aircraft was severely damaged,” Capital Helicopters told KCRA 3 in a statement.
“All our employees are safe, and we do not believe that anyone was injured in today’s events. This incident is currently under investigation by several state and federal authorities. We are hopeful that the people responsible are located quickly.”
The FBI is urging anyone with information about the incident to call its Sacramento Field Office at 916-746-7000 or send a tip to tips.fbi.gov.
A light plane isn’t too difficult (although for the clueless, there’s still plenty to get wrong). But helicopters are generally more difficult and less obvious; even experienced pilots with lots of hours have problems, whether due to their error or mechanical problems.
Hopefully the thief killed himself.