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Helicopter that crashed off Anna Maria Island has been recovered from Gulf of Mexico

The helicopter that crashed off the coast of Anna Maria Island earlier this week has been recovered and taken away to be safely stored until federal investigators can inspect the wreckage.

The 2015 Robinson R44 single rotor helicopter, registered to Sarasota Helicopter Services, crashed into the gulf off the north end of Anna Maria Island late Tuesday morning, injuring the pilot and one of two crew members on board. The two crew members were taking promotional photos and video footage of a powerboat belo when the crash happened..

Those on the power boat were able to pull all three survivors out of the water.

Among the services offered by Sarasota Helicopter Services are aerial or promotional photography, sightseeing tours and special events.

The pilot, a Sarasota man, is still recovering at Blake Medical Center from head injuries, including having at least part of his ear torn off. According to the company’s website, the pilot has more than 30 years of flying experience and is an instructor.

The three men have flown many times together, according to the pilot’s daughter-in-law, Melissa Lee, who is affiliated with the company.

“He is meticulous with his piloting and safety checks or maintenance and the passengers say they had been informed on what to do in such an event,” Lee said in an email. “Everyone involved is thankful to those who assisted in their rescue and treatment.”

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A curious onlooker peers into a helicopter that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico and was pulled from the waters by Sea Tow, then loaded onto a flat bed truck at Coquina Boat ramp for transportation to a secure facility. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

The helicopter was recovered from the water on Thursday night by Sea Tow. Sarasota Helicopter Services’ insurance company contracted Florida Air Recovery, which hired Sea Tow to recover the helicopter.

“It was upright on the bottom,” said Duke Overstreet, a captain with Sea Tow Sarasota.

Sea Tow also recovered the helicopter’s tail, which was torn off when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers tied the tail to their boat on Wednesday. One of the crew member’s cameras was found with the helicopter.

The helicopter is expected to be a total loss.

Just after noon Friday, Florida Air Recovery arrived to transport the helicopter back to its storage facility in Jacksonville. A crane was used to hoist the helicopter onto a flatbed truck from where it sat overnight in the parking lot of the Coquina Beach South Boat Ramp.

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Duke Overstreet of Sea Tow holds a camera recovered from a helicopter that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico and was pulled from the waters and loaded onto a flat bed truck at Coquina Boat ramp for transportation to a secure facility. Tiffany Tompkins ttompkins@bradenton.com

The helicopter will remain stored at the secure facility until investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board can inspect the wreckage. This likely will not occur until after the federal government reopens. Because of the current government shutdown, spokesmen for NTSB are unavailable because they are on furlough.

Detectives with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office did a preliminary investigation, interviewing those on board the helicopter and the powerboat. They have concluded their their involvement since there was nothing criminal about the incident.

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