BEEKMANTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Two utility workers were killed and two others were hurt when their maintenance helicopter got caught on power lines and crashed in rural northeastern New York, state police said.
Pieces of the aircraft dangled from power lines late Tuesday afternoon before falling beside cornfields in Beekmantown, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of the Canadian border near Lake Champlain.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Aerospatiale AS355F2 helicopter came in contact with power lines and caught fire at 4:16 p.m. The agency will investigate. The helicopter is owned by Catalyst Aviation, LLC of Hammonton, New Jersey, according to state police.
Police said the injured occupants were treated and released from the hospital.
A New York Power Authority spokesman said the two injured employees worked for Northline Utilities, a contractor that inspects and maintains power lines.
The New York Power Authority has been working with the Electric Power Research Institute to investigate automated inspection technology using drones, with the goal of making transmission system maintenance safer, more efficient and less expensive.
Transmission line inspection and maintenance is traditionally carried out by workers who climb tall line towers or use a helicopter with a four-person crew. Both methods are very risky.
In January, two contractors died when their helicopter crashed while they were doing transmission line inspection work in northwest Ohio. A helicopter crashed near Caledonia, Michigan in May 2015 during high-voltage line inspections but the two crewmen escaped injury. In 2014, three men died in a helicopter crash while doing routine power line inspections in Silt, Colorado.