GRAEFENBURG, Ky. — A helicopter carrying Gov. Brereton C. Jones slammed into the side of a ravine Friday, injuring all six people on board, authorities said.
Jones, 53, a Democrat who took office in December, hurt his back and was listed in good condition at a local hospital. No one suffered life-threatening injuries and there was no fire.
The Kentucky National Guard helicopter assigned to the governor's office was traveling from Frankfort to Ft. Knox, about 70 miles west of the state capital when passengers reported hearing a pop, then smelling smoke.
The helicopter came down shortly after taking off in rural Shelby County, about six miles west of Frankfort, authorities said. It slid to the bottom of the ravine and struck a tree.
Jones was admitted to King's Daughters Hospital in Frankfort for tests and observation.
"He is experiencing quite a bit of lower back pain," said Diana Taylor, the governor's chief of staff. She said Jones had no fractures.
Bill Griffin, the governor's deputy press secretary and one of the passengers, later told reporters that he saw Jones and state trooper Danny Reed join hands and bow their heads in silent prayer a few seconds before the crash.
"We came out remarkably well," said Griffin, whose arm was injured. "Thank God about that. We are extremely lucky to be alive."
The pilot, co-pilot and the four passengers all emerged from the crash soaked in aviation fuel, Griffin said.
"We were practically on top of each other, trying to get out," he said. "If the gas had ignited, we would have all burned up."
The other passengers, including state Adjutant General Robert L. DeZarn, were taken to a Louisville hospital and were reported in stable condition.
The pilot, Jim Cary, had a broken pelvis and a broken leg. DeZarn suffered bruises and the injuries of Reed and co-pilot Logan Weiler were not immediately available.
The cause of the crash was under investigation.
The tail section of the commercial model Sikorsky S-76 was snapped in two places and tips of the rotors were sheared off in the crash. The right front windshield was shattered where it hit the tree.