KITSAP COUNTY, Wash. - Three people safely escaped after a helicopter landed in the shallow waters of Puget Sound north of Kingston Saturday afternoon, said officials with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.
North Kitsap Fire and Rescue and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to a report from Kitsap County that there was a downed helicopter in the water at 28263 Sandy Beach Lane Northeast.
Scott Wilson with the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office told KIRO 7 that three occupants of the helicopter safely escaped.
Wilson said 79-year-old Douglas Freeman of Kirkland was flying a 1958 Bell HJ47 helicopter with two women on board. Freeman was visiting a friend on Sandy Beach Lane, and witnesses said he had been flying in the area earlier in the day.
Several people nearby rushed to help them out of the wreckage.
Daniel Mangialardi said he, his brother, his cousin Mike Schatz, and a neighbor took a small boat 20 yards out to help the crash victims.
“All you could see were their heads. And they had wedged themselves through the window of the side door,” Schatz said.
Schatz said he pushed their heads underwater briefly to pull the door open.
Freeman was able to break free and the rescuers were able to get one woman out and back to shore. The other woman remained stuck in her seat belt.
Schatz said he went back for his knife even though he was in a state of panic. They cut her belt loose with Freeman's help.
“At the time that we cut that seat belt off, the water was coming over her head as the waves came by. And she only had part of her chin out of the water,” he said.
At one point, Mangialardi held the people’s chins as the water level kept rising. Their neighbor angled the aircraft to give them the largest possible opening to escape.
Mangialardi said he tried to keep everyone calm.
“I’m glad they’re OK,” he said.
A Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said 46-year-old Tatyana Kutsenko of Kenmore was taken to Harrison Medical Center for precautionary measures after chopper fuel got on her skin.
Mangialardi and Schatz said they felt burns from the fuel too.
Firefighters put an absorbent material around the wreckage to prevent fuel from further leaking into the water. The aircraft will stay submerged until the Federal Aviation Administration arrives to investigate what happened.