Helicopter rotor blades severed after clipping power lines, new photos show

Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 5:44 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New photos shared exclusively to WVUE-TV in New Orleans show the harrowing moments before Joshua Hawley’s helicopter crashed into the eastbound lanes of the Bonnet Carre Spillway.

Witnesses say the chopper was flying low and fast before it clipped power lines near the interstate, ending in a fiery explosion.

The dashcam photos show flying conditions were far from ideal. Where powerlines are usually visible, fog enveloped them.

“When you look at the video, he may have been about 100 feet or 200 feet [in the air],” fellow pilot Randy Noel says. “At 100 feet, there are cranes and wires. He’s lowering himself to where he was in danger.”


The images were taken from a vehicle near the crash site on I-10. Hawley, a certified flight instructor and former first responder, was the only person onboard the Dec. 14 flight from Baton Rouge to the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.

Miraculously, Hawley’s chopper avoided any of the cars traveling on the interstate that day.

“That interstate has been packed since the storm,” Noel said.


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Dashcam video that accompanies the photos will be instrumental to investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration, who are trying to piece together what happened.

“I think it will tell them right away what went wrong. You can clearly see the rotor coming apart from the cabin of the helicopter,” Noel said. “The rotor holds the thing in the air and once it was gone and there was nothing to hold him in the air, he went straight down.”

Hawley leaves behind a wife and three young children in Livingston Parish.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.

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