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Alton pilot flies helicopter into trees,  flees fiery wreckage

South Boston News
The burned wreckage of the chopper flown by Lee Hifty of Alton Saturday night. (Contributed photo) / April 08, 2019
An Alton man suffered serious injuries Saturday night when the helicopter he was piloting struck a tree upon liftoff and came crashing down on a private airstrip in the Clover area.

Lee B. Hifty was able to get out of the damaged aircraft on his own before flames spread and destroyed the aircraft. By the time firefighters reached the scene, “there was nothing left at all” of the copter, said Jamie Davis, Clover Volunteer Fire Department chief. “It was just molten metal.”

The crash took place around 10:08 p.m. Saturday night at 2042 Mill Road, between Rodgers Chapel Road and Mount Laurel Road near Clover. The private residence features a grass airstrip and helicopter landing area where Hifty, a flying enthusiast, was taking off in the Robinson R22 Beta helicopter, a light, two-seat craft.

Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller said the craft failed to gain enough altitude and clipped nearby treetops, sending the craft plummeting to the ground.

Davis said helicopter was high in the air when it collided with the treetops: “It was probably not 100 feet, but close to it.”

Hifty suffered burns and other injuries, prompting emergency personnel at the scene to summon the Centra One medical helicopter from Lynchburg. Hifty was flown directly from the private airstrip, which lies hundreds of yards off Mill Road, and taken to Duke University Hospital trauma center for treatment.

His condition at press time was unknown.

Virginia State Police, which is investigating the crash, has reported the incident to the National Safety Transportation Board and the Federal Aviation Administration. Trooper G.K. Brandes is the investigating officer.

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