Miracle in Philadelphia: a medical helicopter crashed, and all four people on board survived, including a child.

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source: npr.org

Miracle in Philadelphia: a medical helicopter crashed, and all four people on board survived, including a child.

As he fell, he avoided a network of power lines and buildings. The pilot, two crew members, and a minor were rescued without serious injury.

A pilot made a forced landing of a medical helicopter Tuesday without loss of life in a suburban Philadelphia residential area, somehow avoiding a network of power lines and buildings as the craft fluttered, hit the street, and glided between bushes outside a church, authorities, and witnesses said.

It was a "miracle" that none of the four people on board, including a child patient, suffered fatal injuries, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy M. Bernhardt said.

Rescuers headed to the wreckage of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church in Upper Darby around 1 p.m. and helped remove the pilot, two crew members, and the infant from the helicopter, Bernhardt told a conference of the press.

Bernhardt said that the boy was taken to a hospital while authorities worked to notify the family.

The helicopter had taken off from out of state. He is believed to have had mechanical problems during the flight, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency said, citing reports from county officials.

A stop sign on the corner was snapped in two at the crash site and had been hit by the helicopter when it fell. The nave was on its side in two parts, just outside the church.

"It's a miracle, it's an absolute miracle, this is what they see behind me," Bernhardt said, adding that he is eager to shake hands with the pilot by lowering the helicopter the way they did.

A witness, Joshua James, said he was driving nearby with his wife and young son when he saw the rear of the helicopter rock from side to side as it glided to a stop. He put his car in reverse.

"It doesn't make sense to me that it didn't hit any of the cables or anything, that it didn't hit us, " James said.

Jerrell Saunders, 28, said he had been walking from his maintenance job at a nearby apartment building when he saw the helicopter "just hovering, very low, extremely low, as it might land in the building I work in."

He got in his car to go to the hardware store, and the helicopter was going in the same direction. She said she saw him hit the ground in the middle of the road and slide across the floor until he crashed.

"I guess the pilot tried to land in a safe area because he bounced off the ground and fell and slid, " Saunders said.

The helicopter turned on its side and, as smoke was coming out, he saw people jumping out of the plane.

"I am telling my grandchildren about this," he said.

A fire official said the helicopter had about an hour of fuel left at the time of the accident, and crews took steps to prevent the power from leaking and contaminating the water.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft was a Eurocopter EC135 medical helicopter. The agency was investigating, together with the National Transportation Safety Board.

A spokesman for Air Methods, the aerial medical emergency transportation service that owns the helicopter said it was part of the Hagerstown, Maryland-based LifeNet program. Federal agencies were investigating.

"Our team will cooperate fully in your efforts to assess the cause of this unfortunate accident," said Doug Flanders, a spokesman for Air Methods.