Surfers Shocked by Chopper Wreckage

An investigation is under way into what caused a U-S Customs and Border Protection helicopter to make a rough emergency landing with three people on board.

The helicopter went down Thursday night on San Onofre State Beach, north of Oceanside just west of the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing, U.S. Customs officials said.  The aircraft took off from Long Beach and was headed to Brown field when something went wrong with the engine.  All three crewmembers walked away with minor injuries.

Dozens of local surfers were caught by surprise Friday morning.  Mike Johnson said the wreckage kept him from getting to his typical surf spot. 

The wreckage was hauled from the beach into a dirt parking lot and cordoned off.  Johnson said at first, he didn’t know what he was looking at, and then he recognized the window of the McDonnell Douglas 600 helicopter. Johnson is familiar with that type of aircraft; he piloted helicopters for the Navy.

"As a former helicopter pilot you always fly looking for a spot to land in case an engine fails.  It's in the back of your mind always," Johnson said.

Others, like surfer Craig Schaeffer, were simply curious.

"Cause I know my buddies aren't going to make it down here so I want to have a picture to say dudes this is where it was," he said.
Officials with the NTSB and the FAA started their investigation Friday trying to piece together what happened. 

All three crewmembers on board were U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees.  They were taken to nearby hospitals and treated for their injuries.

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