MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Emergency crews responded to a helicopter crash off the coast of Anna Maria Island Wednesday morning.
According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the helicopter crashed about a half mile off the shore near the Manatee Public Beach.
The US Coast Guard has recovered three people from the helicopter. A good Samaritan rescued all three survivors, who are said to have non life-threatening injuries.
“Through the coordination of the good Samaritans, local authorities and crewmen on our boat, we were able to rapidly and safely transport the crash victims to advanced medical care,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Lettington, the coxswain on the RBS.
Beach-goers said they heard a loud explosion when the helicopter hit the water.
"I kept watching and when it went down, I thought am I seeing this right, it sounded like an explosion," said tourist Steve Buso.
According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, the helicopter was being used to photograph a boat off the coast when it went down. That same boat was able to pull the three occupants on board before the USCG crew escorted them back to shore.
The pilot, Stanley Lee, of Sarasota, was taken to Blake Hospital in critical condition. The other passenger, Thomas McKnight, was also taken to the hospital. A third passenger did not need medical treatment.
Authorities say the aircraft is listed as a Robinson R44 single rotor helicopter registered to Sarasota Helicopter Services, LLC.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office is investigating the crash, which would typically be handled by federal authorities.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Randy Warren tells ABC Action News, it appears the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board is not stepping in at this time due to the government shutdown.
"We really don't know what's going to happen moving forward," said Randy Warren. "In the meantime, we're just going to trying to figure out what happened."