Pilot of Tree-trimming Chopper Critical After Ohio Crash

July 30--The pilot of a tree-trimming helicopter reportedly is in critical condition after the helicopter crashed this afternoon in Logan County, authorities say.

Logan County law-enforcement and fire departments were called at 4:45 p.m. to the crash site, which is in the area of Rt. 68 that is nearest the Liberty Hills Golf Course.

The pilot, Leo Boucher, 53, of New Hampshire, is in critical condition, said Lane Loeffler of Rotor Blade, the South Carolina company that runs the helicopter.

Loeffler said the company has been trimming trees around power lines on Rt. 188 near West Liberty in Logan County. He suspects that the helicopter, which was about 100 feet off the ground when it crashed, struck a deer stand that Boucher didn't see.

Bellefontaine Mayor Adam Brannon said he was told that Boucher was taken to Mary Rutan Hospital in Bellefontaine and that he had stabilized enough to cancel a medical helicopter, which was going to take him to a Columbus hospital for trauma treatment.

Loeffler said he heard that Boucher was talking and responding to paramedics.

The Dispatch spent some time with Boucher on Monday as he used the helicopter to clear trees for the 16-mile Urbana-Bellefontaine Connector bike path. A crowd of spectators gathered to watch. The tree-trimming project costs about $50,000.

"It's like using a chainsaw," Boucher said at the time. The "chainsaw" is actually several blades, each spinning about 5,000 revolutions per minute, about 80 feet below his helicopter. Metal poles connect the blade device to the helicopter.

Boucher talked briefly about the benefits of using the helicopter, and about his own safety.

"They use the helicopter to do this as a last resort, obviously, although it is faster to use the aerial saw than to do it by ground -- and cheaper. Like twice as cheap," he said.

"The other thing is, on the safety side of it, you've only got one piece of equipment, and one soul, actually out there in harm's way," Boucher noted.

The State Highway Patrol has called in the Federal Aviation Administration to help with the investigation of the crash.

Dispatch Videographer Doral Chenoweth III contributed to this report.

jwoods@dispatch.com

@Woodsnight

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