Four people are injured but alive after a helicopter crashed Friday morning on Pikes Peak.
The crash happened just after 7 a.m. right below the summit at the Pikes Peak Highway, just yards from the Cog Railway track.
The four people inside the chopper amazingly all survived the crash. The pilot, Jim Dirker, was taken to Memorial Hospital. Dirker was previously employed as a helicopter pilot for KUSA in Denver. The other three victims were also Memorial Hospital. All four people aboard the chopper have been released from the hospital Friday, as of 2:30 p.m.
"The company had an emergency response team in place," said Jeffrey Hovermale with the U.S. Forest Service.
The helicopter was filming research video for the new “driverless car” by VW/Audi. The car has been dubbed "A Car Called Shelly" and has been being tested for about a month in preparations to lead the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
"There's no problem with the car. Actually from the researchers who were involved, it was a beautiful run up the hill. It's just unfortunate this has happened. Our real concern now is that everybody who was in the crash is recovering and doing well," said Brad Stertz, Audi spokesperson.
The Federal Aviation Administration made it to the top of Pikes Peak around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon to begin their investigation. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office says the wreckage may not be able to be pulled until Saturday.
The car was created by Stanford University researchers, who are developing technology that could help make driving safer and one day allow ordinary cars to drive on their own.
"Shelly" is named after Michelle Mouton, the first woman to win the Pikes Peak race.
Audi posted the following news release on their Web site regarding the crash:
Audi is saddened by the helicopter incident that took place this morning near the summit of Pikes Peak. Today’s film crew was shooting a test run of the “Autonomous Audi TTS Pikes Peak,” a joint program involving Audi, the Electronic Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, and Stanford University. The goal of the project involves ascending Pikes Peak autonomously without a driver behind the wheel to demonstrate the capabilities of advanced driver assistance systems and GPS. The car was not involved in the incident.
Further information on the helicopter incident will be released by the National Transportation Safety Board and local law enforcement officials. All research activities on Pikes Peak have been suspended. The research project will continue at a later date.
Hazmat crews were also called to clean up a fuel spill that resulted from the crash.
The Pikes Peak Highway has been closed from Crystal Reservoir to the top of the peak since the crash. Tourists from across the country, who were planning to go to the top of the peak couldn't drive there.
"We were disappointed, but we can't control that," said Sandra Conkling.
The COG Railway is also closed while federal authorities investigate what happened.
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