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Chopper had tail rotor failure before hard landing, owner says

Two people were injured when a helicopter belonging to Northwest Helicopters crashed in a field at Olympia Regional Airport Friday.

A Northwest Helicopters chopper went down at Olympia Regional Airport in Thurston County Friday after a tail rotor failure, according to the company owner.

A pilot and a mechanic were on board the Bell UH-1H "Huey" helicopter at the time of the hard landing. The helicopter, which is used to fight fires, was on a routine maintenance flight for the main rotor.

Brian Reynolds, owner of Northwest Helicopters, said he was standing nearby and saw the incident unfold. The helicopter took off and only got a couple hundred feet of altitude before it went down, according to Reynolds.

"I saw the tail rotor wasn’t moving, and I knew they were in serious trouble at this point," Reynolds said.

The tail rotor, which helps control the helicopter, are two rotating blades on the tail of the aircraft.

Reynolds said he saw the helicopter slowly start to move and spin before the pilot realized what was going on. The pilot then turned the power off and maneuvered the helicopter to the ground.

"He did all the proper procedures to get it down," Reynolds said.

One person was transported to the hospital, and the other was treated at the scene. A spokesperson for the City of Tumwater said their injuries are not life-threatening.

Reynolds said the helicopter was "substantially damaged" in the hard landing.

First responders initially said the helicopter was from Airlift Northwest.

“We saw the helicopter coming in and figured he was practicing or something. Shortly after that you just hear this, sound.” Taylor Runyan, who was near the scene of the incident, said. “You could hear something messing up; it didn’t sound like your normal helicopter.”

According to FAA records, the helicopter is used for agricultural and pest control.

The cause is currently unknown.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.