SALINAS (CBS SF) — A pilot with 41 years of experience died in a helicopter crash west of Salinas on Saturday, his sister said Monday.
Frank Gomes Jr., 67, was flying a helicopter that was spraying product over a romaine lettuce field off of Blanco Road near a riverside where the aircraft crashed, Gomes’ younger sister Christine Bellone said.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the crash at about 8:15 a.m.
Saturday, sheriff’s officials said.
Gomes was the sole occupant of a Bell 47 helicopter when it crashed into a field, according to Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
The cause of the crash is under investigation by the FAA, he said.
Bellone said she and Gomes own Gomes Farm Air Service, an aerial agriculture applicator service that helps distribute products such as pesticides on fresh produce by helicopter in Monterey, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Benito counties.
The company is a family-owned business based out of Salinas Municipal Airport and has been in operation for nearly 50 years, she said.
Gomes had been flying in the area for 41 years, but the fog on Saturday “was really just weird” and kept coming in and out, she said.
He had about five minutes left to finish the job and a quick moving cloud came through the area before the crash, according to Bellone.
When her employees found Gomes, he was unresponsive, she said.
“He died doing what he loved,” Bellone said.
Gomes also served on the Monterey County Fish and Game Advisory Commission, according to Bellone.
“He was a great guy, a wonderful pilot and a great community person. He’s really going to be missed,” Bellone said.
“Anybody you talk to will just say nothing but kind things about him,” she said.