MOUNDRIDGE – Sunday afternoon was anything but ordinary.
At approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday, McPherson County Dispatch received word that an aircraft had crashed in a field near Moundridge. Moundridge fire and EMS personnel were the first to arrive on the scene.
The aircraft was a helicopter, piloted by Roger Hershner, 66 of Sequim, Wa., who was apparently on a cross-country trip to Virginia, Kansas Highway Patrol officials said.
The pilot was the only person on board at the time of the crash. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The crash took place between 19th and 20th Avenue on Buckskin Road, approximately half a mile into a muddy field.
A cause of the crash was unknown at press time, but Wichita FAA and Denver-based National Transportation Safety Board officials are investigating the incident.
Moundridge’s Brian Flynn lives nearby and heard the aircraft experiencing what sounded to be engine problems.
Brian Flynn, of Moundridge, stands in the field next to Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper B. D. Gardner amid the helicopter crash debris. Flynn was the first person to arrive at the crash site after he heard the wreck and went to see if anyone was OK. The pilot, a man from Washington state, died in the crash.
Flynn said he heard the helicopter’s engine speed up, slow down, stop and speed up once more before everything went silent.
“We got out the binoculars and saw what it was,” he said. “Smoke was the first thing I saw.”
Flynn said he called 911 and then jumped on his four-wheeler to drive out into the field to see if there was anyone in need of help.
“I did not see a survivor,” he said. “It was hard to tell even what it was.”
Prior to the crash, Flynn said he was just working in his shop.
“I was just changing the oil,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a typical day.”
However, it was not ordinary at all, Flynn said.
“It’s not your typical Sunday,” he said.
Officials from the Harvey County Coroner’s Office pronounced Hershner dead at the crash site.
KHP Trooper B.D. Gardner said there were no witnesses of the actual crash.
Gardner said the KHP is required by state law to help begin investigations of all aircraft crashes.
The investigation being conducted by the FAA and NTSB would take a few days, Gardner said.
The Sunflower Chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves McPherson and Marion Counties, was on hand to give water and food to emergency personnel. Representatives Amy Johnson and Ken Armbrust set up a table with beverages and doughnuts for workers to have.
Local resident Don Hazelton helped by hauling workers from the road to the crash site and back via his ATV.
The helicopter was reportedly a Bell 206 registered to Hillcrest Aircraft Company out of Lewiston, Idaho.