MARIJUANA-SEARCHING HELICOPTER CRASHES
Pilot, passenger unhurt after craft falls on county road.
[Amy E. Voigt/Post-Herald Greg Rankin, left gesturing, chief mechanic with
the Alabama State Troopers, talks to other officers with the State
Troopers Department of Public Safety Marijuana Eradication Program at the
site of a helicopter accident on Linn's Crossing Road near Graysville on
Tuesday. The pilot and passenger were not injured.]
An Alabama Department of Public Safety helicopter fell from the sky Tuesday
morning during a routine search for patches of marijuana plants in north
Jefferson County. The aircraft, a Bell Jet Ranger, crashed from a low
altitude onto Linn's Crossing Road north of Graysville. The cause of the
crash had not been determined early today; it is being investigated by the
department and the National Transportation Safety Board.
Both the pilot, Alabama State Trooper John Trimble, and passenger,
Trooper Mike Manley were unharmed, according to Sgt. Tim Sartain,
public information officer for the department. Both were treated at
Carraway Methodist Medical Center and later released.
Sartain said the troopers likely were not injured because they were
flying at such a low altitude.
The helicopter, one of four the department uses for its aerial
searches, was on its side and missing its blades and front windshield.
Sartain said the aircraft "most likely is down for good."
The pilot and the passenger were surveying the area as part of the
department's Marijuana Eradication Program, a program created more
than 20 years ago to search for large patches of marijuana plants
growing in rural areas.
Sartain said officers trained in spotting the illegal plants take to
the sky about four days a week during the eradication season - May
through October - when the plants start showing.
He said most large patches are found in the northeast corner or
southern regions of the state.