KENOSHA, Wis. – A helicopter carrying two people crashed into a Kenosha family’s home early Sunday, the rotor blades slicing through the two-story structure like a loaf of bread as the aircraft tumbled down a stairway before blowing out the front door and coming to rest on a neighbor’s driveway.
The two helicopter passengers were killed. But a couple and their three young children survived unharmed as the cart-wheeling wreckage blew their bedroom doors off the hinges just before dawn.
“It was God’s hand in this,” said Carla Wilson, who was awakened by the crash about 5:30 a.m.
As Wilson, her husband, Noel, and children, 9, 6 and 2, looked up from their second-story bedrooms on either side of the stairway, they saw a huge hole in their roof. Wilson said the helicopter took off the railing of the stairs and exited through the front of the house, narrowly missing them as they slept.
Wilson added, “My heart goes out to those who were on the helicopter.”
Killed in the crash were Alan J. Sapko, 54, a businessman, and Joanne Anzalone. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Witnesses reported hearing the helicopter’s engine sputtering moments before the crash in the tree-lined subdivision about one mile south of Kenosha Regional Airport.
Gary Stielow, who lives about 100 yards away from the crash, woke up to the sounds of the helicopter in distress. With two hospitals nearby, Stielow said, he and his mother often hear Flight for Life helicopters.
This was different.
“The engine just didn’t sound right,” Stielow said. “It was sputtering. It was at full power, but it was sputtering real bad. Then you just heard a loud boom.”
The helicopter was a Robinson R-44, which can hold up to four people, said Ed Malinowski, an air safety inspector for the National Transportation Safety Board. Malinowski didn’t think the helicopter had a “black box,” which would provide details of the helicopter’s operating conditions at the time of the crash.