A Stanislaus County pilot is in critical condition after his crop-dusting helicopter crashed in an almond orchard a few miles southeast of here.
Bill Cavanaugh, 68, was taken by ambulance to Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.
Bill Cavanaugh's condition has stabilized, his son said this morning. His injuries include a torn aorta, three broken ribs, and a punctured lung.
“He’s expected to survive as long as nothing else develops,” Rick Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh also said the FAA is at the crash scene and he is speaking with them.
Cavanaugh's helicopter crashed near Hall and McBride roads about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, officials said.
"It looked like he went down nose first," said Rick Mello, chief of the Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District.
Cavanaugh was returning to his business after crop-dusting a field of oats several miles north of where he crashed, officials said.
He was flying a Bell OH-58 helicopter, according to his son.
The business, Cavanaugh Flying Service, is based east of Modesto.
Mello said the helicopter had about 50 gallons of jet fuel and about a gallon of fuel leaked after the crash.
The tanks with the material Cavanaugh sprayed on the oat field were empty and had been rinsed before he started his trip home, Escalon fire Battalion Chief Randy Reid said.
Mello said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board had been notified.
Rick Cavanaugh said his father has been flying since he was 17 and has been a crop-duster for 30 years.
He said his father was in good health.
"He had just finished up and was coming back to the shop," Rick Cavanaugh said.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.