GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. A helicopter practicing approaches crashed on the roof of a hospital Thursday, catching fire moments after the two people on board escaped with minor injuries, a fire official said.
The crash around 11 a.m. at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital sent thick, black smoke over downtown and forced the evacuation of patients.
The two people aboard were in stable condition, said Richard Breon, president and CEO of Spectrum Health.
No patients were aboard the chopper, which crashed around 11 a.m. on a helipad atop the hospital. It landed on its side and the two people got out before it caught fire, Fire Chief John VanSolkema said.
"There's not a whole lot left, but you can tell it was a helicopter," VanSolkema said.
Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Chicago, said the helicopter was practicing approaches at the time of the crash.
Patients were temporarily evacuated to other buildings on the Spectrum Health campus.
Lynda Ignatoski, who was standing outside the Towers Medical building on the Spectrum Health campus, told The Grand Rapids Press she saw the helicopter's tail hit a radio tower on the hospital's roof.
She said the chopper spun around and debris flew everywhere. She said the helicopter hit the roof and exploded in flames. Debris was found near the hospital, but there were no reports of injuries or damage on the ground.
American Red Cross spokeswoman Caroline Clunk said volunteers were setting up canteens on the scene to assist evacuees, firefighters and other rescue workers.
Spectrum Health Butterworth, located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, is part of the largest campus of Spectrum Health, which is a nonprofit health care system based in western Michigan.
Butterworth Hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center for the most serious patients in western Michigan.
Associated Press writers Ben Leubsdorf, David Runk and Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Spectrum Health: www.spectrum-health.org