Helicoper crash kills Highway Patrol pilot
By Adam Allington / St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis – A Missouri State Highway Patrol pilot is dead after a helicopter crash in west St. Louis County.
Forty-seven year old Joseph Schuengel of St. Louis was returning from a traffic patrol operation along I-55 and had just dropped off two other troopers before heading back to Spirit of St. Louis Airport when the accident occurred, according to Sgt. Al Nothum, the spokesman for Troop C.
Nothum said that Schuengel was a first rate pilot and there is no indication why the helicopter crashed.
"[Schuengel's] a 17-year veteran with the Missouri State Highway patrol, he's been flying for about 7 years," Nothum said, "He's really our only pilot here at Troop C. He's logged a lot of hours in fixed-wing as well as this helicopter."
No distress calls were made to the airport control tower and no one on the ground in the subdivision, where the crash occurred, was injured.
"Joe was just a good guy," Nothum said. "Just a big strong guy."
The Federal Aviation Administration said the copter crashed about a mile and a half southeast of Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, about 15 minutes after take-off.
Witnesses reported seeing the rotor blade separate from the helicopter before the crash. Nothum would not speculate on a cause, but said the helicopter, a Bell 206-B, was serviced every 100 hours.
"Joe was very meticulous about this helicopter. He's brought it to a lot of different events that I've attended, and he's very particular," Nothum said. "I've flown with him before as well as most of us here, and we wouldn't have done that if we didn't trust him."
Schuengel is survived by his sister and his mother.
The FAA, St. Louis County Police, state Highway Patrol and the National Transportation Safety Board will all be investigating the crash. The NTSB will be the lead agency because of the fatality.