LUTZ, Fla. - The helicopter involved in a crash-landing that resulted in the death of a motorist Thursday had possible mechanical problems days before, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Officials with the FAA confirmed it is investigating a reported possible mechanical problem with the Robinson R44 helicopter that took place March 31. At the time, the pilot was the only person onboard the aircraft. It landed safely in Lutz just before 11 a.m.
Thursday just before 3 p.m., however, the aircraft had to be crash-landed on 50th Street in the Palm River area after it suffered a "catastrophic engine failure," according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
When the chopper hit the pavement, it skidded several dozen yards.
“If this had been on grass he would have probably stopped right where he landed,” NTSB Air Safety Investigator Dan Boggs said. “He really did about the best job you could do in this situation.”
A portion of the aircraft's rotor broke off and flew into the window of a passing pickup truck, killing the passenger and injuring the driver. The passenger was the father of the driver. The deceased was identified as 70-year-old Deodat Persaud Gangapersaud, of Plant City.
The helicopter's pilot, identified as 39-year-old Bryan Messick, and his passenger were not seriously injured, but the sheriff's office said the pilot of the aircraft was taken to the hospital to be checked out.
Traffic along both 50th Street and Palm River Road was blocked and may be for several hours, troopers added.
The NTSB arrived at the scene of Thursday's crash in Tampa and was investigating the circumstances.