Helicopter Crashes Into Lake

LAKEWOOD – A man and his daughter swam safely to shore after the helicopter in which they were flying lost power and crashed in Chautauqua Lake on Friday evening.

Emergency personnel were dispatched to the lake near Vista Way in Lakewood for a report of a helicopter that crashed into the lake.

According to Sgt. Investigator Paul Gustafson of the Lakewood-Busti Police Department, 52-year-old Gordon Wuebbolt and his 18-year-old daughter had just taken off from their private helipad near the shore when the aircraft lost power and plunged into the lake about 50 yards away from the shore. The helicopter settled into the lake at a point where the water is about 7 feet deep.

Mason Campbell, a 12-year-old boy from Celoron who was playing at Richard O. Hartley Park a few hundred feet up the shoreline saw the crash unfold.

“They were taking off and then just started going down,” said Mason, a sixth-grader at Southwestern Middle School. “I saw a guy and a girl jump out and swim away. The propeller was still spinning when it went down.”

Police say neither occupant was injured and Gordon was flying at the time of the engine failure. The helicopter was removed from the lake later Friday and will stay on the owner’s property while the Federal Aviation Administration completes its investigation.

The Chautauqua County Sheriff Department’s Water Emergency Team assisted Lakewood-Busti Police, the Lakewood Fire Department and the Ashville Fire Department at the scene.

Neighbors have expressed concern in the past with the helipad being so close to a residential area and the lake. In July 2012, residents attended a Lakewood Village Board meeting to raise their concerns.

Walt Anderson, a Lakewood resident, said the helicopter caused excessive noise as well as problems for boats docked in the water around the helipad. Residents also raised public safety concerns.

At the time, Lakewood Mayor David Wordelmann said there was nothing in the village’s zoning laws against the use of a helicopter on private property.

Following that meeting, concerned citizens contacted an FAA representative from Rochester who told the residents the helicopter was OK.