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Published June 19, 2013, 02:12 PM

Pilot killed in suburban St. Paul helicopter crash

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (AP) — A pilot was killed Wednesday when the helicopter he was flying to spray for mosquitoes crashed into the backyard of a suburban St. Paul home.

By: PATRICK CONDON,Associated Press, Associated Press

MAPLEWOOD, Minn. (AP) — A pilot was killed Wednesday when the helicopter he was flying to spray for mosquitoes crashed into the backyard of a suburban St. Paul home.

Police in the city of Maplewood said they got calls about 8:15 a.m. that a helicopter flying low over a neighborhood a few miles east of St. Paul had crashed into the backyard of a private home. Firefighters who were first to arrive at the scene found the helicopter and a detached garage in flames.

No one was in the home or the garage at the time of the crash, and Maplewood's acting Police Chief Dave Kvam said the pilot was alone in the helicopter. Authorities did not immediately release the pilot's name.

"I heard a big noise and didn't know what it was," said Donna Basler, 70, who lives four houses from the crash site. "Then my neighbor called and said there's a big fire."

Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, which did not spread to the house. The garage was damaged but was still standing.

Kvam said he had no immediate details about what might have caused the crash. He said the National Transportation Safety Board would lead the investigation.

Lt. Kerry Crotty of the Maplewood Police Department said the helicopter did not crash directly into the garage but that she believed several of its rotors struck the structure as it was crashing into the ground.

The helicopter, owned by Scott's Helicopter Service in Le Sueur, had a contract with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District to spray for mosquitoes.

Neighbors said the small helicopter was swooping very low over the area before the crash, but that's not necessarily unusual for helicopters that spray for mosquitoes. The neighborhood backs up against a small but heavily wooded nature preserve. The crash happened about a block from heavily traveled Century Avenue, a major north-south thoroughfare in the suburbs east of St. Paul.

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