Low-flying helicopter at Race to Alaska's start under investigation VIDEO -- Port Angeles Port Townsend Sequim Forks Jefferson County Clallam County Olympic Peninsula Daily NEWS
PORT TOWNSEND Police are considering filing reckless endangerment charges against the pilot of a helicopter that dipped low over boaters at the beginning of Thursday's Race to Alaska.
It appears that the helicopter violated height restrictions, said Detective Luke Bogues of the Port Townsend Police Department.
He said the helicopter's blades were below the masts of the ship on several occasions.
It came so close to the water that a couple of paddleboarders were blown off course, Bogues said.
Police Officer Bill Corrigan said the pilot was a 44-year-old man from Federal Way.
Police did not identify the man, who was not charged Thursday.
The pilot told police he was hired by a television news crew to film the proceedings.
He said the news crew was encouraging him to fly lower, and he expressed remorse for his decision, according to police.
Bogues said the police investigation included determining the news crew's identity.
The blue helicopter with no markings began circling the harbor at about 5:45 a.m., first staying well away from the boats and then dropping down to just above the water while several hundred observers watched the start of the race.
Emergency dispatchers at JeffCom 911 received several calls at about 6 a.m., Bogues said.
According to these calls, the helicopter was described as having flown some 8 to 15 feet above the water.
Several witnesses submitted their photographs and videos of the incident to police, Bogues said.
Corrigan reported the incident to the Federal Aviation Administration's Flight Standards District Office in Seattle.
The FAA may launch its own investigation into whether the pilot violated flight rules, Bogues said.