Helicopter crashes into Gulf off AMI

The Robinson R44 helicopter was recovered on Friday, Jan. 4 and transported to the Coquina Beach boat ramp. - Collin Schmidt | Submitted

Updated Jan. 11, 2019 – ANNA MARIA – A helicopter crashed into the Gulf of Mexico about two miles off Anna Maria Island on Wednesday, Jan. 2, sending two men to the hospital, according to Manatee County emergency officials.

Stan Lee

The helicopter was shooting video of a boat about 10-15 feet above the water a half-mile west of the Sandbar restaurant when the crash occurred around 11 a.m., said Steve Litschauer, acting chief of Manatee County Emergency Management.

Sarasota Police Department | Submitted

Two men were transported to Blake Medical Center; the pilot, Stanley Lee, in his 60s, with trauma, and Thomas MacKnight, 58, with back injuries, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). The third occupant, photographer Peter Boden, refused treatment.

Lee was released from the hospital on Jan. 10. MacKnight was not hospitalized.

Emergency workers met the victims at the South Coquina boat ramp for transport to the hospital, said Robert Smith, Manatee County’s public safety director. The boat that was the subject of the video transported them from the crash site to the ramp.

The owner of the Robinson R44 single-rotor helicopter is Sarasota Helicopter Services LLC, according to MCSO. Lee is listed as manager of the company, according to the Florida Division of Corporations.

The crew was working for North Carolina-based Fountain Powerboats, according to MacKnight’s Facebook page.

Tom MacKnight

This evening, MacKnight posted on his Facebook page: “Hi Everyone. I want to just let you know that I am out of the hospital and back home. Wish I could say that for my pilot, Stan, who is in critical condition. Please say a prayer for him. We went down hard in the gulf around 11 am while shooting for Fountain Powerboats. I am pretty banged up like I just played a quarter with a pro football team but I am blessed to be here. Guess I am not done here on earth. I lost my camera, wallet, phone, keys but feel like I won the lottery of life today. I appreciate the messages and concern and will try to respond. But now, I am going to chill out. I kind of had a bad day. Again, please pray for Stan and thank you for well wishes and concern. More tomorrow.”

Pete Boden posted: “Just a quick update, I am a bit bruised, but fine! The inflatable Vest worked great, that’s why I wear them. Today God didn’t need us, and for that I am truly thankful. Thank you for all the kind thoughts and prayers!”

A GoFundMe account has been set up for Boden, who lost his camera equipment in the crash. Another GoFundMe account has been set up for Lee and MacKnight.

Pete Boden