2 pilots rescued after hard landings in Polk County

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Two pilots are expected to be OK after two back-to-back hard landings in Polk County, one involving a sheriff’s office helicopter.

Deputies say the sheriff’s office helicopter went down Thursday afternoon while responding to a gyrocopter that also went down on Mosaic property. It happened near County Line Road East near Manley Road.

The sheriff’s office was alerted to the gyrocopter hard landing around 2 p.m. when the sheriff’s office helicopter got to the scene, they found the gyrocopter pilot standing and waving.

Deputies say the sheriff’s office helicopter then went down around 3 p.m. The pilot was able to let other deputies know he was okay but notified them that both he and the other pilot were stuck in a pond made up of soft clay.

The area where both pilots landed was extremely rural, wet and mucky. First responders could not reach them by foot, boats or all-terrain vehicles.

A Coast Guard helicopter eventually pulled both men out of the pond. The pilots were taken to local hospitals to be checked. The sheriff’s office says both are doing well.

“I’d like to thank the other agencies who came out this afternoon such as Polk Fire Rescue, FWC, Mosaic personnel, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and the United States Coast Guard,” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. “This was an extraordinary situation, and we’re happy that both men were not seriously hurt.”

The pilot of the sheriff’s office helicopter has been identified as 52-year-old Lavon Hughes. He has been with the sheriff’s office since July 2007 and was flying an OH-58 during Thursday’s incident.

Deputies say they are unable to release the name of the gyrocopter pilot at this time.

The Federal Aviation Administration will be investigating the causes of the crashes.

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