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Military vet pilot in PA medical helicopter crash released from hospital, said he had ‘God as my copilot’

LifeNet Key West landing at Lower Keys Medical Center in Key West, FL. (KeyWestFlightMedic/Wikimedia Commons)

Danial Moore says he “had God as my copilot” the day he crash-landed his medical helicopter on the lawn of a Drexel Hill church, sparing the lives of everyone — including a 2-month-old baby — on board.

“And we landed in His front yard, so that was kind of nice,” Moore, 52, told reporters from a stretcher at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center on Sunday.

Moore had been in the hospital since the crash with serious injuries since Tuesday. He said he remembers little from what has been widely regarded as a “miracle” landing that day, save “waking up and looking up and seeing a whole company of firefighters looking down at me.”

“That’s a real good feeling,” he said.

And on Sunday, firefighters, police and medical staff looked on, saluting and applauding, as Moore boarded an ambulance back to his home in Winchester, Va.

Before embarking on the road home and to recovery, Moore — a former military pilot — took a moment to thank the nurse and medic on board his chopper that day, the first responders at the scene, his Penn medical team, his “guardian angel” fiancée, and “all of those folks who were running toward the burning helicopter rather than away from it.”

Moore noted that when his helicopter went down on a sleepy Drexel Hill residential road Tuesday afternoon, it was the nurse on board who dragged him out from underneath the smoking chopper. Meanwhile, he said, the flight medic handed the baby on board off to safety before extinguishing the fire on the helicopter, and jumping in an ambulance to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to continue the infant’s care.

“It was completely amazing,” Moore told reporters.

The crash occurred just before 1 p.m., as the LifeNet Eurocopter flew the baby girl from the WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital to CHOP. As the helicopter began experiencing issues, officials said, Moore glided it lower and lower for about a mile over Drexel Hill looking for a place to land, as witnesses said they heard a sputtering in the sky, and a nearby nursery school braced for impact.

Eventually, the helicopter plunged to the ground near the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Burmont Road, skidding to a stop on the lawn of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church. On the way down, Moore avoided the surrounding homes and buildings, telephone poles, and wires — damaging nothing but some landscaping near the church.

The cause of the crash remained under investigation.

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Helicopter crashes are rare but can often be fatal for passengers. So when the alert came in to the Penn Presbyterian trauma bay Tuesday that a chopper had crash-landed, surgeon Brian Smith said he and his team braced for the worst. But the worst never came — instead, Moore’s passengers arrived at the hospital with minimal injuries. The baby was unhurt, and the pilot himself was the only one requiring surgery, with injuries to his ribs, spine, and chest.

“It was pretty amazing to see his crew members come through really unscathed,” Smith said. “It’s amazing, and again, a testament to Dan’s skill to get that thing onto the ground. His talent saved the lives of everybody else on that helicopter.”

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Matt Nowlin, a friend of Moore’s and a former Army flight commander, said he watched witness footage of the crash in “disbelief.”

“A nonpilot might look at that and say, ‘Wow that’s a terrible outcome,’ but that was a fantastic outcome — the fact that he avoided power lines and buildings and no one was hurt — it’s an absolute miracle,” Nowlin said. The LifeNet Eurocopter EC135 Moore flew that day was similar to the helicopters he flew in the military and has been operating for nearly three decades, Nowlin said, noting that Moore was “very familiar” with the apparatus.

Nowlin called his friend “your typical pilot: calm and collected, highly trained, and highly professional.”

“Usually, when you meet someone like Dan, you’re having the worst day of your life,” Nowlin said. “I’m grateful he’s out there, and people should know that there are these kind of people out there in the world.”


(c) 2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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