MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are trying to determine why a helicopter spraying for insects crashed and erupted in flames in Maplewood Wednesday morning, killing the pilot, Michael Kramer, 44, of St. Charles.
It happened just before 8:15 a.m. on the 2700 block of East 7th in Maplewood. Neighbor Tambra Thomas says she woke up to the loud noise of a helicopter engine. She looked out her bedroom window and saw the aircraft plunging straight down into the ground.
Metropolitan Mosquito Control District spokesman Jim Stark confirms that the helicopter, contracted through Scott's Helicopter Service in LeSueur, was dropping dry glandular formations to combat mosquitoes when it crashed.
The Ramsey County Medical Examiners office confirms that the pilot died in the crash. No one else was on board.
Witness Kristine Pfaff, was on her way to work when she heard a loud aircraft engine, looked up, and saw the helicopter.
"It was low so it was loud, it wasn't sputtering, I did have a clear view of it in the sky, it wasn't smoking, it wasn't trailing smoke," Pfaff recalled. "I thought it was doing a trick the way it was inverted... (upside down) but it never made the loop around, it just went down."
"I feared the worst and as soon as I heard the impact, I was turning my car around and saw the big black smoke, I just knew," Pfaff continued. "He didn't have any time to get out."
Donna Basler lives four houses from the crash site and says she heard a "big rattling type noise" but didn't know what it was. Basler says she didn't hear a crash, but saw smoke billowing from the neighbor's garage.
Police say no one was in the house or garage when the helicopter went down, but witnesses say the pilot did not make it out of the flaming wreckage.
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