Helicopter crashes in before going up in flames, killing two
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An “experimental aircraft” crashed with two passengers near County Road 214 and Melrose Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Both occupants were killed.

MELROSE, Fla. — Clay County officials are responding to a fatal gyroplane crash between the Melrose and Keystone Heights area on Saturday afternoon. 

An “experimental aircraft” crashed with two passengers near County Road 214 and Melrose Road around 10 a.m., according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The ‘gyroplane’ went up in flames upon impact. Crews managed to extinguish the fire quickly but both of the occupants were pronounced dead at the scene. 

The gyroplane was a small homemade aircraft, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. After the wreck, it was left “mangled and badly burned”. 

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Clay County Fire and Rescue responded to the scene. FHP has taken over the investigation.

“I was on the porch, and I could hear a small chopper, ‘doo, doo, doo,’ then all of a sudden it was like, ‘Neeeee,'” said Steve Murray, who lives just a few dozen yards from the crash site.

That sound made Murray look up from his morning coffee.

What he saw – a gyroplane crashing from the sky – made him take off running.

“When I was running, I could see the props bending as it was coming down, from how fast it was coming,” said Murray.

Murray says he jumped several fences, with fire extinguisher in hand, while his wife called police.

He knew he couldn’t put out the blaze, but at least wanted to keep it from spreading.

“We didn’t even use the extinguisher because it was so hot, you couldn’t get that close,” said Murray.

Florida Highway Patrol brought in multiple investigative units, using drones and mapping tech to figure out what led up to the crash.

The plane came down in a goat farm, just a few yards from a house.

“It did appear that, according to witness statements, it did appear the pilot maneuvered the aircraft to avoid a private residence and another structure there on the property,” said Sergeant Dylan Bryan. 

Bryan described the plane as a gyroplane – a home-made, experimental helicopter.

He says flying conditions were excellent, so they are investigating possible engine failure or pilot error at this point.

For folks living nearby, it’s a sight they won’t be forgetting any time soon.

“I think on a straight line, we probably live less than an 8th of a mile away, said Ryan Begue, who went out to get a look at the crash site. “Just a sad deal, because they were probably enjoying their weekend.”

Florida Highway Patrol reports the two victims were unrecognizable after the blaze.

Sergeant Bryan says witnesses and possible relatives have told them they believe the pilot and passenger live nearby in Melrose and routinely flew the gyroplane in the area.

This is a developing story.

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