By Rick Neale

TITUSVILLE — Carsten and Wendy Petersen heard the helicopter pilot’s alarming distress call — “I’m having engine trouble. I’m coming in!” — over their radio Sunday morning at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville.

“We both go out, and we look. I’m looking up at the sky, and I can’t really see anything. I look down, and I see — there’s the helicopter, laying on the grass,” Carsten Petersen said.

The Petersens, who own Space Coast Executive Jet Center, hopped into their vehicle and drove about half a mile along a nearby taxiway to the helicopter crash site. The helicopter had “hard-landed” and tipped over onto its side in the grass just south of Runway 9, Wendy Petersen said.

They picked up the pilot and a passenger and drove them back to their fixed-base-operator headquarters on Challenger Avenue at the west side of the airport.

Both helicopter occupants were unharmed, Titusville Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Sutton said.

“In this case, fortunately, no apparent injuries,” Sutton said.

Airport personnel transported the wrecked helicopter to a hangar for safekeeping ahead of Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigations, said Justin Hopman, Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority deputy director of operations. Hopman said the helicopter was likely damaged beyond repair by the landing impact.

The crash occurred about 11:25 a.m., Sutton said. Hopman declined to identify the helicopter’s occupants.

“(The pilot) was departing the airport on a training flight with another pilot,” Hopman said. “He reported engine trouble right after takeoff and came back around to make it back to the airport, and he had a hard landing.”

Brevard County Fire Rescue and Space Coast Regional Airport fire personnel also rushed to the crash scene.

“Fantastic job from the pilot,” Wendy Petersen said of the emergency landing.

“Because originally, he called in and he said he was over Grissom (Parkway) — and he might have to put it down on Grissom,” she said.