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Three Killed as Helicopter Strikes Power Line

September 10, 1987|Associated Press

VALLEJO, Calif. — A helicopter contracted to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crashed after hitting a 230,000-volt transmission line Wednesday, killing three people aboard and temporarily knocking out power to thousands of customers, police said.

PG&E spokesman Ron Rutkowski said the helicopter "was doing routine power line patrol, checking the condition of equipment," when it hit the lines at about 11:40 a.m.

Two of the dead were employees of the Northern California utility, and the third was the pilot who worked for Commodore Helicopters, according to Solano County Coroner James O'Brien.

Commodore, owned by KGO radio broadcaster Lu Hurley, operates out of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. It offers tours of the picturesque bay in a Bell Helicopter Textron JetRanger helicopter.

Hurley told a reporter at the scene that the pilot had 17 years experience and had worked for power utilities many times, helping them survey their lines. Such survey work is generally done with the helicopter about 50 feet from the lines.

A small grass fire started when the helicopter crashed but was quickly extinguished. There were no reports of injuries on the ground.

The names of the victims were being withheld pending notification of relatives.

The accident shut down a substation in Benicia, knocking out power to 8,838 customers, including the Exxon Refinery in Benicia and an industrial park in the city, Rutkowski said.

By late in the day, limited power service had been restored to all but the refinery, a PG&E spokesman said.

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