Doerunite remembers chopper crash - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Doerunite remembers chopper crash

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September 21, 2006

Doerun, Georgia --   This is where our television tower was located before its collapse in June, and this is where our new Mega-tower is being constructed.    It was June 1st, just before 8:00AM when tragedy struck this rural South Georgia town. An Army Chinook helicopter, on a training mission from Savannah to Dothan, clipped a guy wire on one of two television towers here.      

The chopper went down and four of the five soldiers on board were killed. The Army still hasn't released an official cause of the crash, although it's likely weather conditions contributed.  It was a foggy morning with poor visibility, and apparently the pilot didn't see the towers until it was too late.   

We are told that a rear-rotor blade on the helicopter struck one of the guy wires.  That caused the chopper to break apart and crash into three debris fields spread across a quarter of a mile.   

Killed that day were 25-year-old sergeant Christopher Erberich, 30-year-old sergeant Michael Hall, 28-year-old Sergeant Ronald Meeks, and 41-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Michael Wright.  They all belonged to the third battalion, 160th special operations aviation regiment, a group known as the Nightstalkers.      

Amazingly, the co-pilot on that helicopter survived. The Army still hasn't released his name and he's expressed a desire to remain unnamed.  He's also expressed a desire to remain close to the people here in Doerun who rushed to his side that morning.

Angela Tyner lived in the shadow of the TV towers. That morning, she was outside with her dogs when she heard a helicopter. "Playing with the puppies and feeding them, then I keep looking because I can hear where it sounds like it's having trouble. At the point that after it hit, it went on down from the towers and exploded."   

She called 911 and then jumped into her husband's pickup truck and rushed down the nearby dirt road. "When I drove down the dirt road I see the cockpit and then I seen the survivor standing at the fence line."   

Tyner went to his side, helped him to the back of her pickup and waited with him for an ambulance.  Was he badly injured? "His arm, a scratch above his eye. That's minor compared to what he had went through."   

The co-pilot was rushed to a hospital. But it wouldn't be the last time Angela Tyner would see him.  "We got together, got in touch with some of the people that were there, and pretty much just ate lunch and talked."   

In July, the co-pilot, his wife and three children returned to Doerun to visit his rescuers.    "It felt good, to actually be able to picture him without the blood on his eye or anything wrong and just to see him without being in shock. It was good," said Tyner.   

The soldier won't talk much about what happened that day. "He doesn't really remember. It was just really quick, so he doesn't remember with it and he prefers it to be that way."      

What he does remember is the woman who rushed to him in the moments after the crash.    "I guess you could say a bond that, I haven't really felt that before to describe it," said Tyner.   

Angela Tyner says she and her family will remain in touch with the survivor of this tragic crash.    When the co-pilot came to visit Angela's family gave him and his family one of the puppies she was out feeding the morning of the crash.   

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