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Pilot Injured in Chopper Crash on Salinas Highway

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SALINAS, Calif. (KCBS) – Authorities have identified a pilot who survived a helicopter crash onto U.S. Highway 101 in Salinas this morning.

Frank Gomes, 62, was the sole occupant of the aircraft, Monterey County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike Richards said. He owns Gomes Farm Air Service at the Salinas Airport.

The helicopter landed upside-down on the roadway at 6:07 a.m.

No cars were hit, and Gomes suffered only minor injuries.

He was transported to Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital after complaining of pain to his head, FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.

California Highway Patrol Officer Robert Lehman said Gomes had departed from the Salinas Airport and had been traveling west. Gomes said he had become disoriented and lost control of the helicopter, according to Lehman.

The helicopter is used to spray pesticide over farms, but there were no pesticides or other hazardous materials on board, Lehman said.

As of about 9 a.m., the crash was blocking the right lane of the highway just south of Airport Boulevard, CHP Officer Robert Lehman said. The lane reopened shortly after 9:30 a.m.

<P.Caltrans dispatched a crew to the scene to clean up liquid spilled onto the roadway. The liquid was later determined to be water, CHP Officer A. Paulson said.

The helicopter has been uprighted and crews were working mid-morning to load it onto a trailer and remove it from the highway, Lehman said.

Early this morning, some diners who had just finished a meal at the Denny’s restaurant on nearby De La Torre Street ran back into the restaurant and told the staff that a helicopter had crashed on the highway, a Denny’s waitress said.

“Traffic is jammed, but I didn’t see or hear nothing,” said the waitress, who asked that her name not be used.

Lehman said it is not known if the foggy weather was a factor in the crash. The sheriff’s office and FAA are investigating the cause.

Once the helicopter is removed, the FAA will examine it for mechanical problems and talk to Gomes to determine what happened, Lunsford said.

The Monterey County Regional Fire District also responded.

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