This story has been updated.
A tail-rotor failure likely led to the crash of a helicopter at the Olympia airport Friday. The pilot and a mechanic on board were both taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The Bell Huey is owned by Northwest Helicopters and is often used to fight fires.
Owner Brian Reynolds said the crash happened just as the helicopter lifted off for a routine maintenance flight.
“I was standing actually near the fence line over here and kind of witnessed the whole thing as it was happening and I saw the tail rotor wasn’t moving and I knew they were in serious trouble at that point,” he said.
The tail rotor counteracts the main rotor and keeps a helicopter flying straight.
Reynolds said he watched as the Huey spun around and then slammed into the ground. The impact broke the tail section and the tail rotor itself separated from the helicopter.
Reynolds was the first person to reach the downed helicopter. He said the pilot was already out the aircraft. Firefighters removed the mechanic. Both were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.