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Strong wind topples parked helicopter at airport near Latrobe

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

A state police helicopter that had just returned from a search-and-rescue mission was toppled by a strong gust of wind while it was parked at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity on Wednesday morning.

The pilot had returned to his base at the airport as a thunderstorm was approaching, said state police spokesman Trooper Steve Limani. The helicopter had been part of the search for a missing snowmobiler in Somerset County, who was safely located Wednesday.

Limani said the pilot had tied down the helicopter. He was about to begin to refuel the aircraft and move it inside the hangar when a 58-knot, or nearly 67 mph, gust of wind blew it onto its side just after 10:30 a.m., Limani said.

Nobody was injured, and the helicopter did not leak fuel or any other fluids, Limani said.

The helicopter weighs about 3,100 pounds — about the same as a Honda Accord.

Limani said crews were waiting Wednesday afternoon for the proper equipment to pull the helicopter up. He expected the helicopter would be moved into its hangar for a thorough damage assessment.

“Obviously, there is extensive damage,” Limani said.

Westmoreland County Airport Authority Director Gabe Monzo said no other damage was reported at the airport as a result of the wind, though power to the facility was out for about 10 minutes.

“It was quite a gust that came through on the leading edge of the storm,” Monzo said. “It was very quick.”

Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or jreeger@tribweb.com.

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