Sheriff’s office, FAA search for cause of Tuesday afternoon accident at Rome airport

Sean I. Mills

Two people suffered minor injuries after a mechanical malfunction forced a helicopter into a hard landing at the Griffiss International Airport in Rome Tuesday afternoon, according to rescue and law enforcement officials.

Sheriff’s investigators said Deekpak Dherny, 69, of Rome, was behind the stick of a civilian helicopter at about 1:47 p.m. when warning alarms started sounding.

Authorities said Dherny was about 100 feet in the air practicing maneuvers with Charles Lewis, 53, of South Carolina, and Joseph Fernandez, 50, of Colorado, both with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Authorities said Dherny began to lower the chopper down for a landing when the whirlybird lost power about 20 to 30 feet above the runway.

The helicopter fell the remaining distance and landed on its skids, then bounced back in the air. The helicopter came down again and this time fell onto its side, officials said, crashing the propeller into the blacktop.

Authorities said Dherny, Lewis and Fernandez were able to climb out the broken windshield under their own power.

Dherny suffered minor cuts to his head and face and he declined medical treatment, authorities said. Lewis suffered an injury to his left shoulder, along with minor cuts, while Fernandez suffered an injury to his lower back, officials stated. Both men were taken to Rome Memorial Hospital for treatment.

City fire officials said there were no flames in the crash. The Griffiss Fire Department sprayed down the leaking fuel with foam.

The FAA is expected to investigate the crash at a later date.,117349