PROSPECT HEIGHTS, Ill. - It was a shocking sight for commuters in Prospect Heights Wednesday morning, as a small helicopter crash landed in the middle of Milwaukee Avenue.
It happened just after the helicopter took off from nearby Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling.
"A little bit rough but good. Hanging in there," said 35-year-old pilot Ovidiu Astalus, who suffered a separated shoulder and a cut on his ankle, which is not bad when you see the damage to his helicopter.
"Well I have a God up there who was watching me," said Astalus. "I was a lucky one, and (benefited from) pretty good training as well."
Astalus was flying a brand new Robinson helicopter he bought for his company and had just taken off from Chicago Executive Airport when the chopper’s engine suddenly failed. "I had only like 200 feet from the ground, 300 feet, so I was very low for something like that. So I was looking for where I could be safe."
Astalus spotted an open intersection on Milwaukee Avenue where cars were stopped at a red light. He knew he had seconds to bring the helicopter down before the blades stopped spinning.
"If you fall on some cars you can kill somebody," said Astalus. "So I was looking to make sure people are safe when I landed. The landing was good. It’s just that the prop hit one of the poles. That’s what flipped me on the side."
The married father of three scrambled out of the helicopter, which blocked the northbound lanes of Milwaukee Avenue.
Wheeling Fire Department Deputy Chief Steve Mella said there was a large emergency response.
"We had Wheeling, Prospect Heights and Des Plaines fire departments all responded. The pilot was out on our arrival," Mella said.
Astalus says while it was a scary experience, it’s not going to deter him from flying again.
"I’m looking forward for the new chopper and move on," Astalus said. "It is what it is, you know. Life goes on."
The wreckage of the helicopter was towed to a hangar and the Federal Aviation Administration has launched an investigation into what went wrong.