During filming of an Audi commercial this morning, a helicopter crashed near the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado. All of the occupants survived.
Details are sketchy, but video from local news helicopters shows the fuselage of the downed copter lying on its side on the side of the Pikes Peak Highway roughly a mile from the end of the road at the summit of the 14,110-foot mountain. The location of the crash was too dangerous to attempt a rescue helicopter landing, so the injured passengers were transported to a designated landing site halfway down the mountain near the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb starting line. High winds common at the summit likely made a rescue helicopter landing there too dangerous as well. All of the occupants of the downed copter were flown to Memorial Hospital in nearby Colorado Springs where the three passengers are reportedly in “good” condition while the pilot is in “fair” condition and could be upgraded to “good” condition later today.
The helicopter, reportedly belonging to AirCam National Helicopter Services and reportedly flown by company president Jim Dirker, was filming a commercial for Audi featuring the company’s prototype driver-less car. The car, named “Shelly” in honor of the first female Pikes Peak winner and developed in cooperation with Stanford University and the Electronic Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, was not involved in the crash. The helicopter was filming a test run of the automated car up the mountain when it crashed this morning between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. local time.
All work on the commercial, “A Car Called Shelly,” has been suspended for the time being. HazMat crews are working to clean up an estimated 150 gallons of fuel spilled in the crash and the road has been closed until the scene can be cleaned up. Service on the popular Cog Railway, the track for which runs very close to the crash site, has also been suspended for the time being but may be reopened later today.
Audi has released a statement regarding the accident:
“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.”