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Man critical after helicopter crash

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Man critical after helicopter crash
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

A 71-year-old man was listed in critical condition Thursday after a helicopter he was piloting crashed into a Ripley Township barn, north of Little Falls.

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Gary Earl Oleen, of St. Cloud, was flying the crop dusting helicopter at 10:18 a.m. Wednesday when he crashed onto the roof of a barn located just off Haven Road, north of 233rd Street, according to the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office.

Oleen was trapped inside the helicopter for about 20 minutes, as the helicopter was through the roof of the barn, but not through the interior ceiling.

Emergency crews were limited in terms of how they could get to Oleen, said Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel. There was oil and fuel everywhere, so crews couldn’t cut through the metal and risk creating sparks. Since they couldn’t get to Oleen from underneath, crews had to get to him by climbing on the roof.

The roof itself was in danger of collapsing at any moment, Wetzel said. Emergency responders could have easily slipped on the oil or fuel spills.

An aerial ladder truck from the Little Falls Fire Department allowed responders to reach the pilot, though, and no one on the crew was hurt.

“This was an extremely difficult and challenging rescue with the precarious position of the victim and his helicopter,” Wetzel said.

He continued, “(Emergency responders) did an outstanding job of quickly and safely removing the victim from the wreckage under extremely dangerous and challenging conditions.”

Oleen, who was hired by the owner of the farm to spray the fields, was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition Thursday.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is assisting in the investigation.

On scene were Morrison County Sheriff deputies, the Little Falls Fire Department, Camp Ripley Fire and Emergency Services, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the FAA.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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