A recently licensed helicopter pilot made a bad turn and crashed April 13 in the bay waters near Bradenton Beach.
Pilot Josef Bakker, 48, of Englewood, told responding officers he was recently licensed. He was flying over the Intracoastal Waterway that runs through Sarasota Bay near Bradenton Beach with co-pilot James Rahming, 42, of Tampa, who was shooting photos of boats in Sarasota Bay.
Baker said he made a maneuver to turn the helicopter, but failed to realize he lacked the altitude needed to make the turn.
The helicopter, a two-blade, two-seat Robinson R22, went into the water nose first and flipped, according to a report from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
The pilots were not injured.
Shelly Gilbreath was boating with her family April 13, heading to Jewfish Key from Palmetto.
She had been watching the low-flying copter as it hovered over a boat and then a Jet-Ski.
“I thought it was one of those helicopters that could land on water,” Gilbreath said.
“It was flying really, really low, and then it tilted to one side, then the other,” she said. “Suddenly, it tilted more than it should have, pulled up and tried to turn around. That’s when it went in.”
Gilbreath said her daughter tried to call 911 and they headed toward the crash, but other boaters got there quicker.
“We saw them pull one guy out,” she said. “I didn’t know there were two people on it until later. It was just flying way too low in my opinion.”
A Manatee County Marine Rescue team arrived and pulled the men from the water just after the 12:15 p.m. report of a downed aircraft in the water. Marine Rescue took the men to the Coquina Beach boat ramp, where the MCMR headquarters is located.
MCSO also responded to the crash.
The Federal Aviation Authority was notified of the crash, and Sea Tow was called to recover the copter.