FORT MEADE, Fla. - The Coast Guard had to be called in to rescue two pilots after a Polk County Sheriff’s Office helicopter crash-landed into a swampy field this afternoon while responding to an earlier gyrocopter crash.
The scene of both crashes was on a rural portion of Mosaic property in the Fort Meade area, not far from County Line Road and Manley Road.
The view from SkyFOX showed the yellow gyrocopter sitting in the swampy marsh with a bent rotor. The PCSO helicopter was visible just a few yards away, on its side in the mud with its tail boom broken.
“The area where they were down, it was so hard to get it. It was described as being very mucky. The men got stuck up to their chests in very thick mud. There was no way to get to the pilots on foot," PCSO spokesman Brian Bruchey explained.
Emergency crews tried but apparently failed to reach the pilots via airboats. A third helicopter -- also from PCSO -- dropped bottled water to the pilots while they waited for rescue.
A Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Clearwater eventually flew in and lowered two rescuers down to the swamp. One pilot was lifted out in a rescue basket; the other was hoisted up with one of the rescuers.
Both will be checked out, but initial word from the sheriff's office was that neither suffered any major injuries.
Next up will be retrieval of the aircraft and an investigation into the crashes.
"It's just a very bizarre situation that both of them would go down within an hour of each other," Bruchey added.