Pilot Robert Hoban Jr., 56, of New Jersey, and Jeremy Kearns, 30, of Massena, New York, died on Tuesday after jumping from a burning helicopter

By Char Adams
November 02, 2018 12:50 PM
Credit: NSUJL/Facebook

Two men died and two others were injured on Tuesday after jumping nearly 40 feet from a burning helicopter after the aircraft got caught up in power lines and burst into flames in upstate New York, reports say.

Pilot Robert Hoban Jr., 56, of Shamong, New Jersey, and Jeremy Kearns, 30, of Massena, New York, died in the accident after jumping from the burning chopper in Beekmantown, The Post-Star reported. Co-pilot Scott Fabia, 34, of Hyde Park, and Benjamin McAllister, 30, of Hopkinton, leaped from the helicopter as well but survived.

“It was either jump out or burn to death,” one witness told the Plattsburgh Press-Republican. “They jumped.”

The four men were contractors working on the power lines for the state’s power authority, according to the Press-Republican. The men had been installing a series of pulleys at the top of the utility poles when the incident occurred around 4:15 p.m., the publication reported.

Credit: North Country CERT/Facebook

Clinton County sheriffs and witnesses rushed to help the victims, with deputies performing CPR and life-saving measures on the men, Clinton County Emergency Services director Eric Day has said, according to the Press-Republican. Another person struggled to breathe, had chest pains and an open wound as a result of the fall.

The helicopter crashed to the ground shortly after the victims jumped, according to the Post-Star. Video footage of the incident showed fires burning both on the wires and the ground.

“I saw something off in the distance kind of smoking, thought maybe it was a transformer that had blown up or something, but as I kept coming up on it, bigger flames,” witness Heather Porter told WVNY, noting that she had been driving in the area at the time of the crash.

“As I got closer, I could tell it was something else, but you could see people down in the field doing CPR and the victims and everything.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident, according to ABC News.

In the wake of the incident, social media users have been remembered the deceased in Facebook tributes, with leaders of the IBEW labor union, which Kearns was a part of, mourning the loss of their “brother” in a post on Wednesday.

“I can tell you that while I sit here writing this, I personally feel a great sense of sorrow for Jeremy’s family and the fact that Jeremy is gone,” an official wrote in the post.

A woman who appears to have been Kearns’ girlfriend shared a photo of him on her Facebook page on Thursday, writing, “We miss you baby💔.”