Three people escaped serious injury when a Pinal County Sheriff's Office helicopter was forced down near Interstate 8 on Tuesday morning.
The pilot was able to bring the chopper down in what was described as a "hard landing" in a dirt field near I-8 and Peart Road, after experiencing engine problems about 7:15 a.m., a PCSO spokeswoman said.
None of the three people on board, the pilot, tactical flight officer and mechanic were seriously injured, and they refused medical treatment at the crash site. However, all were taken to a nearby hospital as dictated by protocol, but all were released, the spokeswoman said.
The three, all county employees, were on a mechanical flight when the engine failed, forcing the pilot to put down in the remote desert south of Casa Grande, just missing some high tension power lines.
News video showed the helicopter on its side, the tail section a few yards away and its rotors bent.
The helicopter, a 1990 MD Helicopters 500E, has been part of the PCSO Aviation Unit since December of 2011. The helicopter was procured with funding from the Arizona State Legislature to give PCSO the air support they needed to patrol the active border crime corridors of Pinal County.
The pilot has been flying for Pinal County Sheriff's Office for the last five years, and has logged nearly 1,200 hours of flight.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
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