• Readers posting on the Times-Courier Facebook page said they saw this helicopter trimming limbs at locations in Gilmer County Saturday and Monday.
    Readers posting on the Times-Courier Facebook page said they saw this helicopter trimming limbs at locations in Gilmer County Saturday and Monday.

Pilot dies in Talking Rock helicopter crash

A helicopter that was trimming trees in Talking Rock Tuesday, March 5, crashed in the woods off Ellijay Road (Old Highway 5 South in Gilmer County). 

The pilot, Johnny Kent, 51, of Pomona Park, Fla., was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital and died later that day as a result of his injuries. 

There were no other parties inside the aircraft at the time of the accident. 

A witness at the scene said the pilot appeared to be conscious after the crash when he was being assisted by emergency workers.  

Pickens Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kris Stancil said at this early stage in the investigation the cause of the incident is undetermined. 

A witness interviewed at the scene was an employee of Pike Electric, a company that was also in the area doing maintenance work around the power lines. The man said he had seen the helicopter working all morning along the lines. He told the Progress that at one point a gust of wind came through, and soon after, the aircraft was on the ground, but he was not certain the wind caused the aircraft to crash. 

While clear and sunny, Tuesday was notably windy all morning into the afternoon.   

At the scene, property owner Kay Johnson said she was not home at the time of the crash but arrived shortly after. Johnson walked this reporter to the crash site, which was about a quarter mile into the woods. 

Johnson said the helicopter crashed into her husband’s deer stand before coming to rest on the ground. 

The multibladed saw used to trim trees was on the ground in front of the mangled helicopter, which was laying on its side, with the long pole that attaches the blades to the helicopter still suspended in the trees. 

The company that was contracted to trim the power lines, Rotor Blade, had recently rented a hangar at the Pickens County Airport, according to airport manager Randy Thomason. He said the company had plans to be based from the airport for around three months. 

Thomason added the company had been in town a few weeks, but due to poor weather had not flown many days. He said helicopter trimming of rights of way is not that uncommon, but “it is expensive.”

“It is actually a lot cheaper than sending out crews [to wooded areas],” he said. 

“A helicopter can do so much more in a day than a crew, but it’s not cheap.”

Thomason said the attachment to the helicopter has roughly an 8-foot aluminum pole that has six or eight 2-foot blades attached to them.

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