The helicopter before it crashed on Jan. 4. 

At approximately 12 p.m. on Jan. 4, an off-duty fire chief witnessed a helicopter crash at his private air landing strip in Mokelumne Hill.

Michael Dell’Orto, chief of the Mokelumne Hill Fire Protection District told the Enterprise that the owner of the helicopter was running the aircraft through some tests after repairs and was hovering at about 10 feet in the air when one of the skids came into contact with the ground.

“A rotor hit the ground, and it was nothing but trouble after that,” Dell’Orto said.

The owner, who was the sole occupant of the helicopter, was able to escape with a few bruises, but the helicopter was severely damaged, he said.

The chief called 911 due to a minor fire that ignited in the helicopter’s engine, and it was quickly extinguished.

Firefighters from Dell’Orto’s district were the only personnel to respond to the scene, as the chief subsequently reduced his request for assistance.

“They got more experience, because you don’t get to go to too many helicopters down,” he said.


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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