THERMAL, Calif. — A crop-dusting helicopter plunged into a desert cornfield and burst into flames Friday morning, killing the pilot, authorities said.
Pilot John Bilbrey, 45, of San Marcos was turning to make a second pass over the field about four miles south of Thermal when his craft nose-dived into the ground about 8:30 a.m., Riverside County Sheriff's spokeswoman Louis Vaughan said.
Farm workers and the pilot's ground crew worker pulled Bilbrey from the burning craft, but he had already suffered severe burns over most of his body and was dead on arrival at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio.
The $80,000 aircraft, a Hiller U-12E helicopter, was destroyed in the crash.
Bilbrey was owner and operator of J & J Helicopters in San Marcos, in San Diego County, Vaughan said.
The cause of the crash was under investigation.